In 134 countries around the world, the Salesians of Don Bosco are well placed to enact a co-ordinated response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. They are working at the grassroots level within communities providing daily essential services such as education, healthcare, shelter, nutrition and Covid-19 awareness programs in Asia, Africa, Central America and South America.
While it seems that the effects of COVID-19 are easing in Australia and other similarly placed countries, a major humanitarian crisis of food shortages is looming.
Lockdown restrictions around the world have caused a momentous slowdown of the global economy causing severe flow-on effects to those who are already on the brink of survival. The United Nations’ World Food Programme projects that starvation will be a significant problem, affecting up to 230 million people.
Africa is already the worst affected continent as it currently experiences intermittent food shortages due to floods, droughts and locusts, which heavily damage harvest yields. Conflict, natural disasters and other compounding issues throughout the Middle East, Latin America and Asia also conspire towards food shortages, leading to malnutrition in children and adults.
“Creative global solidarity” is Pope Francis’ plea to all people, as he asks us to help avoid a terrifying humanitarian tragedy. In response to this, the Salesians have set up an ‘Emergency Solidarity Fund’ to support their works around the world, responding to those who need it the most. Below are a few examples of the Salesians current work.
Ethiopia – Support for Street Children, Elderly and the Poor
The Salesian communities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia continue to support "the poorest of the poor", the local street children and vulnerable elderly. Depending on charity, these groups have been severely impacted during the pandemic lockdown, placing them at greater risk of Covid-19 and malnutrition.
Street children have been left abandoned due to the closure of bus stations, as daily earnings are made by transporting travellers’ luggage and assisting drivers with passengers. Salesians are providing them with food and Covid-19 awareness education.
The Salesian outreach has also provided health prevention tools and awareness programs to 24,000 children and young people from 14 education centres throughout the country.
Employees of the Salesians are assisted as they feel the impact of lockdowns etc especially those with large families who have been greatly affected by the increase in market food prices.
Don Bosco Mekanissa, are supplying water to thousands of poor people living in slums, so they can wash their hands etc, thus contain the spread. The Salesians have repaired an old truck and 5000 litre reservoir tank to transport water daily to the area.
The distribution of hygiene materials, food and masks, is combined with Covid-19 awareness programs to learn the basic safety measures to help minimize the spread. Salesians have worked alongside local authorities in the delivery of their programs.
Locusts Threat - In addition to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ethiopia is facing a second wave of desert locusts. According to the UN the locusts present “an extremely alarming and unprecedented threat” to food security and livelihoods. A swarm of a third of a square mile consumes the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. The UN is warning of an unprecedented threat to food security in a part of the world where millions face hunger. The Salesians have a presence in 14 areas in five regions and can access thousands of community members who work with local communities providing food and supplies.
South Sudan - Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp
Don Bosco Training Centre technical staff have volunteered to make and distribute metal stands for water tanks in their IDP Camps. This initiative is part of the support by Salesians towards containing the spread of Covid-19 among refugees. The camp is home to over 15,000 people.
India – “Bosco Reach Out” to the poor and street children during lockdowns
As the numbers of coronavirus cases in India surge and the government is converting train carriages into hospitals, the Salesians are working with local authorities to provide outreach of food, hygiene kits and Covid-19 education to the poor and vulnerable.
In Bangalore, Salesians have arranged for masks to be made at Don Bosco Schools with tailoring facilities. They will be supplied to hospitals and government offices and distributed freely to the public, vendors, drivers and shopkeepers.
In Guwahati, "Bosco Reach Out" are providing food and relief supplies to over 3,500 poor workers, migrant families and slum residents suffering from the government lockdowns. They are distributing kits of basic food items, soap, hand disinfectant and masks.
In Mumbai, the Salesians, staff and volunteers are travelling to remote tribal villages in the hills, supporting thousands of people by providing food and hygiene kits during the pandemic. They are also providing food kits to internal Indian migrants who are trying to return home due to the lockdown. The migrants endure a long wait of 3-4 weeks to access transport. Numerous special convoys have been organised, however social distancing measures and the large number of people have made the process slow and complicated.
In New Delhi, the Salesian are providing buses to help migrant workers to return to their homes with the authorisation of the government. Workers are supplied with food packages, water, fruit, and protective masks.
In Chennai, the “Relief with dignity” project has been established to offer paid work to migrants who have returned to their villages. 100 gardens have been established to promote the cultivation, distribution of food and economic sustenance for those people who otherwise have no income.
Guatemala - Salesian Parishes are serving the most vulnerable
The global emergency is having an effect on Guatemala that will continue beyond coronavirus. The lockdown, curfew, restrictions on mobility and the slowdown in economic activity have left millions of families in poverty. Without being able to work, they have no food to eat. The Salesians have established an outreach centre to supply basic necessities to the most disadvantaged.
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