ETHIOPIA: Salesian missionaries close Bosco Children Project to visitors to keep children safe during COVID-19 quarantine
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries with Bosco Children Project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are working on preventative measures in the face of COVID-19. The Salesian organization rescues children from the dangers of the street. The project provides support and educational services in addition to an outreach orientation center and a hostel for youth. In response to the virus, Salesian missionaries have closed the Bosco Children Project center to outside visitors and asked teachers to stay at home. The children are remaining there because they have no home to go to and are being cared for by the Salesians.
“We no longer go out on the streets at night in search of kids because it’s too risky,” said Father Angelo Regazzo, a Salesian missionary who is over 75 years of age and has been stationed in Ethiopia for more than 30 years. On March 16, before the center was closed, he made several trips by bus to bring in as many youth as possible to help them in this emergency. He said, “Don Bosco would have done the same.”
During this period of quarantine, Bosco Children Project is providing special classes, sports tournaments, music and educational films. Salesians have enough supplies for now. Fr. Regazzo noted, “We have enough food, water, diesel to run the generators, water pumps and refrigerators for several months. We have plenty of soap to wash, alcohol to disinfect ourselves, paracetamol and first aid medicines.”
He added, “Nobody goes outside the fence and those few who enter, such as guardians, cooks and social workers, have to wash their hands with soap at the entrance and disinfect their shoes with bleach and alcohol.”
The Salesians celebrate daily Mass and invite all the students to pray. Fr. Regazzo said, “We invite the boys, almost all Muslims and Orthodox, to pray according to their religious beliefs. And we urge them to be happy and believe in life so we are convinced that everything will be fine.”
Fr. Regazzo’s main concerns are those outside of the Salesian gate. He noted, “Looking out of the fence, one notices no change in people’s behavior. Thousands upon thousands of people coming and going. Open restaurants and shops, crowded banks and supermarkets, and very intense traffic. The general attitude of people seems to be aimed at business as usual. I don’t know until when because the numbers of the infected are growing day by day.”
Fr Regazzo concluded by expressing condolences to those who have lost their loved ones because of coronavirus. He said, “I wish that you may all return to normal soon and enjoy the sea and the mountains. For now, we have the opportunity to taste the hearth of home and pray together. We all needed it so much.”
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 38 percent of its population living in poverty, according to Feed the Future. Close to 85 percent of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture but frequent droughts severely affect the agricultural economy leaving more than 12 million people chronically, or at least periodically, food insecure. In addition, more than two-thirds of the population is illiterate.
The country has 4 million orphans which account for nearly 12 percent of all children and according to UNICEF, more than half a million of these were orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis that has affected the country. Thousands more children run away each year seeking a better life on the streets.
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UNICEF – Ethiopia
Salesian Missions – Ethiopia