WEST AFRICA: Salesians launch awareness campaigns, training and nutritional support in response to COVID-19
(MissionNewswire) Salesians in the West African Province are serving youth across the four countries of Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The Don Bosco Network, which is part of the West African Province, launched into immediate action to help fight the spread of COVID-19 within its centers and communities.
The Salesian Province was also widely affected by the catastrophic Ebola epidemic that the World Health Organization (WHO) reports killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016. Ebola greatly impacted Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Salesian programs in those countries were on the front lines of prevention, providing educational materials, soap and hand washing stations, as well as bleach and other cleaning products. Salesian centers also immediately began working with orphans whose parents, and sometimes entire families, died from the disease.
“Salesian missionaries in the West African Province have had many challenges to overcome including the Ebola epidemic and high rates of poverty in those countries, leaving many children and families in need,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “While education is always the primary focus, because Salesian missionaries are living and working in the communities in which they serve, they know the local need first-hand. Because of this and their past experience, Salesian centers are able to effectively launch wide-reaching prevention programs in time of crisis.”
Even before there were many COVID-19 cases in the countries, Don Bosco Network secured its centers across Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and put into effect physical distancing, sanitizing and ensuring staff and youth were safe. Salesians also started making homemade sanitizer and teaching local populations how to make it. The centers also began distributing soap and other sanitizers.
Developing and launching an awareness campaign was also critical. Through Don Bosco Radio in Ghana and Nigeria, information on preventive measures, symptoms, testing and avoiding the spread of the virus were given through online radio stations. Salesians also shared information on their social media channels. Within their communities, Salesians shared banners and flyers to highlight prevention information.
Training has also been key. In Lagos, Nigeria, Salesian staff were taken through training on COVID-19 to be equipped and ensure safety. In Ashaiman, Ghana, training for 15 people were trained on how to make their own masks using tissue paper and rubber bands.
In some of communities, frantic efforts to create food banks are being made. These are in preparation and anticipation of a worse case scenarios that could include lockdowns. Food banks will enable Salesians to support the vulnerable with critical nutrition support, which is needed even in the best of times. With people out of work, many lack the ability to purchase food as needed. Measures are also being taken to assist rural farmers with agro-input to support their farming.
Photo courtesy Salesian Missions (contact for usage permissions)