WORLD HEALTH DAY: Salesian Missions highlights programs that ensure poor youth have access to health care
Salesian missionaries offer more than 200 medical clinics and hospitals in mostly rural areas around the globe that serve a wide range of medical care needs.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 7, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian and other international organizations in honoring World Health Day 2020. In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) held the First World Health Assembly and designated the day to mark the WHO’s founding. The first World Health Day was held in 1950. Every year it is celebrated on April 7, serving as an opportunity to draw worldwide attention to a particular theme of importance related to global health.
This year in honor of International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, World Health Day 2020 will focus on the vital role that nurses and midwives play in providing health care around the world and call for strengthening the nursing and midwifery workforce.
The WHO notes that millions of people still have no access to health care at all. Millions more are forced to choose between health care and other daily expenses such as food, clothing and shelter.
Salesian missionaries offer more than 200 medical clinics and hospitals in mostly rural areas around the globe that serve a wide range of medical care needs. Leprosy, otherwise known as Hansen’s disease, has been a focus of Salesian-run medical clinics for more than 100 years. HIV/AIDS prevention programs are also a vital component of Salesian health care initiatives in Africa. In many countries with Salesian programs, dental care and other necessary health services are offered to poor youth and their families who might otherwise have no access to health care.
Salesian missionaries have also been responding to the needs of the poor, migrant workers and homeless youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most Salesian schools are closed, but for many who live at Salesian institutions, their care continues. Salesian missionaries are mobilizing in their communities assessing needs and finding avenues for support. They are also providing safety awareness information to their communities about the impact of the virus and prevention tips through online campaigns and posters and banners. Missionaries have also started campaigns to raise funds for specific needs like food and health kits. They have mobilized their tailoring centers and students to create masks for local hospitals, community members and those in Salesian programs.
Salesian missionaries in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia were instrumental during the Ebola epidemic and have been using the same networks, infrastructure, resources and strategies during this pandemic. Given missionaries live within the communities they work, they are perfectly positioned to help in times of crisis.
“The work of Salesian missionaries around the globe goes beyond education,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesians aim to serve the whole person by making sure that basic needs like health and nutrition are met in addition to other social service needs. Medical and dental clinics ensure that those who are living in poverty still have access to the medical care they need even when they cannot afford to pay for it.”
Fr. Baek added, “Salesian programs are working to adapt to the challenges of today whether it’s providing education online in place of schools that are now closed or teaching youth about virus prevention and safety measures for those that are living in shelters and boarding houses.”
On World Health Day 2020, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight medical and health programs that provide critical services to those living in poverty.
Salesian missionaries and Salesian sisters living and working in Timor-Leste have three orphanages for poor and homeless youth in the country, as well as a medical clinic. In the wake of a devastating civil war that claimed countless lives, decimated entire communities and resulted in living conditions that are among the worst in the world, the Salesian community has been providing programs to help residents recover and rebuild. Now that the violence has subsided, efforts are being focused on helping the poor, restoring hope and providing new opportunities for the future.
The Maria Auxiliadora Medical Clinic offers essential medical care for the poor in Venilale and 13 surrounding villages. There were more than 9,300 patients treated for common ailments such as malaria, tuberculosis, asthma and pneumonia.
The clinic’s priority is to care for mothers and children. Because a high percentage of the population lives in conditions of poverty and experiences food shortages, access to the Salesian clinic is an important alternative to a costly hospital visit. Health education programs in local schools and villages are also conducted.
The Salesian medical clinic in Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador, has given new life to a young woman with a serious medical condition. Nataly, who is 19 and has been going to the Salesian clinic for rehabilitation, is now walking better and without pain. She’s even started running and feels safer and more stable. Therapy has helped her to be able to better connect with her peers because she is more mobile.
Nataly was born premature, and as a result, her feet were disfigured. She didn’t start walking until she was 4 years old so was delayed in her play and development with other children. Early in her young life, her mother had taken her for rehabilitation but when Nataly was 2 years old, her mother passed away. She was sent to live with her father who left to live with another woman. Nataly was entrusted to her grandmother, a very poor older woman who could not take her to rehabilitation.
It was just two years ago that Nataly’s aunt took her to the Salesian clinic in Mitad del Mundo. There she had an X-ray and met with a traumatologist. She had a tumor on her left leg and had to undergo surgery. The family struggled with the funding for the surgery so Salesian missionaries helped. After the surgery, she started rehabilitation at the Salesian clinic and grew stronger and stronger each day. Today, Nataly thanks Salesian missionaries for the help they offered her to start a new life.
A Salesian Missions donor is improving the medical care of children and families in some of the poorest slums in New Delhi, India, thanks to a donation sent to the Medical Care for the Street and Vulnerable Children in New Delhi project. A recent donation is providing medications for the mobile medical van that visits several poor areas within the city.
Most of the children and families seeking care at the Salesian medical van would not otherwise have health care. Having the funding needed to keep a supply of medications for patients is critical for the care and wellness of those who Salesian missionaries serve. The mobile medical van, in addition to medical assistance booth and clinics, enable Salesian missionaries to address a number of serious and sometimes chronic health concerns faced by youth.
The medical van visits several areas including Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, which is a place of relief for thousands of poor and homeless people. It serves free meals and clean water for anyone who is in need. The mobile medical van visits this area so that anyone can access a check-up or address a pressing medical concern.
The mobile medical van also visits Jama Masjid, a mosque in New Delhi and the largest in India, with a courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. It is located in the middle of a densely populated local market and also has a night shelter where many homeless people sleep. Children with their mothers or guardians form a line and wait to be examined by the doctors. The medical van is parked right outside of the shelter, and the coordinators arrange the children according to their medical concern and the urgency of the concern.
Salesian missionaries have re-opened the Father Giacomin Medical Clinic, located in Anisakhan, Pyin Oo Lwin in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar, thanks to the Salesian provincial house and the local Salesian planning and development office. Salesian missionaries are grateful for the support of donors and volunteers who made the reopening possible.
The clinic will be open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. when people are usually finished with work. The medical clinic has two volunteer doctors. Salesian missionaries are working to secure two more doctors from Pyin Oo Lwin. A volunteer college student will perform record keeping during office hours, and the basic equipment and medicines have already been provided to the clinic.
The first Salesian medical clinic in the area dates back to 1957 when the Salesian Nazareth Seminary in Anisakhan opened a small infirmary for boys attending the seminary. Services slowly extended to the local population with the launch of a small medical clinic.
Thanks to the consistent quality care offered to the poor and sick, hundreds of local people from all cultures and religions, the majority being Buddhists, were able to access medical care. Under the late Father Fortunato Giacomin, who was based in Anisakhan from 1968 until his death in 2000, the medical clinic flourished.
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