SIERRA LEONE: Don Bosco Fambul provides support to youth and prisoners to prevent coronavirus infections
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Fambul, located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, is one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations. The Salesian organization and its staff were on the frontlines of the Ebola epidemic that struck West Africa in 2014. The World Health Organization called it the “largest, most severe and most complex Ebola epidemic” in history. More than 28,000 people were infected, and over 11,000 people died before the international public health emergency ended in June 2016.
The virus is under control in Sierra Leone with few positive cases and deaths, but the threat remains. Close to 47 percent of the population does not have running water and social distancing is difficult in crowded slums.
Thanks to the experience gained during the Ebola epidemic, Salesians started working from the very beginning on prevention and raising awareness of the virus. One of the first steps they took was to make Don Bosco Fambul headquarters a first-aid base and transfer youth who were not infected to the buildings on the capital’s outskirts.
In addition, the bus used in the Don Bosco on Wheels project traveled through the streets of Freetown’s poor neighborhoods during the night to identify and help street children and young girls who prostitute themselves. Even during the curfew, the bus never stopped serving people. With permission from the police, Don Bosco Fambul was able to go out onto the streets.
“During the first weeks of isolation, we took care of almost 500 minors. One hundred of them have already been reintegrated into the great family of Don Bosco Fambul,” said Salesian Father Jorge Mario Crisafulli, director of Don Bosco Fambul.
Don Bosco Fambul is also the only institution that works with prisoners, providing many programs and helping to prevent the spread of the virus. After a revolt caused by the confusion generated by the virus took place in the Pademba Prison in April, Salesians had to start many of their prison programs from scratch. Fr. Crisafulli said, “Let us not lose heart because we are the only hope for them.”
Salesians work to help minors in Pademba, many of whom are innocent or charged with petty crimes and are placed in cells together with adults. These conditions led Salesians to negotiate agreements with prison management for their release or for various activities within the prison. Don Bosco Fambul provides medical examinations of the injured and the sick and has also re-equipped a section to house infected people, transforming the prison chapel into a clinic to isolate suspected cases.
Salesian missionaries have been serving in Sierra Leone since 2001 when they began working to rehabilitate former child soldiers through Don Bosco Fambul. Young people also face significant challenges in accessing education in the country. With too few teachers and school buildings destroyed in the war, resources are thin. Persistently high illiteracy rates mean that an estimated 70 percent of Sierra Leone’s youth are unemployed or underemployed.
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Salesian Missions – Sierra Leone
UNICEF – Sierra Leone
UN World Food Program – Sierra Leone