IVORY COAST: Salesian missionaries launch campaigns that focus on prevention of child abuse and promoting a healthy environment
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been working with poor youth and their families in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast, for more than 25 years. Missionaries provide social development services, education and workforce development to help youth break the cycle of poverty and become contributing members of their communities.
In addition to protecting youth, Salesian missionaries have been focusing on protecting the environment. This year a campaign was launched to combat the unhealthiness of the environment and raise awareness of child abuse.
The government of the Ivory Coast, in collaboration with UNICEF, conducted a study into child abuse in the country and found that 86.5 percent of children between the ages of 1 and 14 have been victims of violent disciplinary action including psychological, emotional or physical abuse. To help respond to this issue, the Salesian community of Abidjan – which has among its centers a home for children at risk – provides several programs and awareness activities related to the protection of children.
A recent child abuse prevention march took place along the streets of the suburb of Koumassi, home of the Salesian center in the capital and an area that has a large shantytown. Children dressed in traditional clothes and flew a banner that read, “It is our responsibility to protect children from violence.”
The Salesian community in Abidjan also organized a special march in Koumassi to focus on protecting the environment. Carrying garbage bags, youth collected waste and garbage found on the streets and talked to citizens about the importance of a healthy environment. Residents of Koumassi are faced with pollution produced by industrial plants, permanent wastewater sewage and piles of trash that remain on the streets.
“Salesian missionaries living and working in cities across the Ivory Coast focus their attention on working with youth in need and their families to provide education, food security, health clinics and workforce development services,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth who are able to engage in productive activities like promoting a healthy environment and the protection of other children, are able to pay forward what they have learned in Salesian centers. It helps them connect with their communities and increase their self-confidence.”
According to the World Bank, 46 percent of those living in the Ivory Coast live in conditions of poverty—with more than a quarter of the population living in severe poverty on less than $1.25 a day. The Ivory Coast has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in West Africa. While a wide range of national and international initiatives focus on HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and testing, the collapse of public health facilities in the north, as a result of years of conflict, has made the situation worse.
During the country’s time of war, Salesian missionaries provided life-saving shelter, food and security for the thousands fleeing violence and seeking refuge on their grounds.
Today, Salesian missionaries continue their work providing shelter, education and social development services to youth and their families. They also work with the victims of war to heal the country’s deep wounds. They listen, help victims seek compensation and work for social reconciliation between opposing groups. Known for their work with child soldiers around the globe, Salesian missionaries are also providing training for youth, some who had been aggressors during the war.
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World Bank – Ivory Coast