Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: August 09, 2021

Supporting Critical Needs in Poor Communities

At more than 150 Salesian-run medical clinics, our missionaries provide critical health services to those who otherwise couldn’t access or afford it in some of the most rural regions around the world. They are on a mission to ensure that every person has equal access to medical care and lives in conditions that support good health.

“There are far too many inequalities in access to health services, due to where people are born, grow, live, work and age,” explains Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Our missionaries witness this all over the world, and understand very well the inextricable links between poverty and poor health. That’s why we’re dedicated to tackling this issue head-on. When we can support the whole person—including addressing basic needs like health and nutrition—we can more effectively help children and families build better futures for themselves.”

More than 100 years ago, Salesian missionaries launched their first health initiative, caring for patients with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) when no one else would. Since then, clinics such as the Abobo Health Center in western Ethiopia have continued that legacy, ensuring that those who are living in poverty can still access the medical and dental services they need—and deserve.

Located between the cities of Gambella and Pugnido, Abobo hosts thousands of Sudanese refugees who have escaped war and famine at home. Unfortunately, many find themselves lost in their new country, which itself struggles with endemic poverty and lacks the resources to adequately address its root causes.

“When we say Salesians work in some of the poorest places on the planet, we mean it,” says Fr. Gus. “In so many of the communities served by our missionaries, people struggle not only to make ends meet with meager wages and few employment opportunities, they also have little or no access to safe environments, clean water and air, food security, and health services.”

That’s one reason why, in 2002, a group of Italian and Spanish volunteers collaborated with Salesian missionaries to set up the clinic. Nearly 20 years later, Abobo Health Center remains the region’s only medical facility—one that serves as a symbol of the community and provides health services for more than 4,000 local villagers. The Center has 40 beds, a small ward dedicated to sick children and those suffering from malnutrition, and a small wing that houses obstetrics. Having expanded its reach over the years, the Center further supports approximately 20,000 people living in the area and 200,000 people in the entire region.

In addition to the clinic, Salesian missionaries in Abobo also help families improve their living conditions by assisting with housing construction. Many residents live in thatched huts without sanitation and unreliable roofs that need repair every few years. Deforestation—which has led to a scarcity of building materials—is an increasing threat to these families’ wellbeing. By helping them build more stable homes to live in, missionaries also further support both their health and safety.

“This clinic and the additional assistance provided by these missionaries is just one small step toward helping children and families around the globe find new dignity and hope for the future,” concludes Fr. Gus. “But it’s an essential step—one I’m proud to say we’re a part of.”

Our mission helps provide affordable and accessible health care to those living in poverty around the globe. What’s your mission?

Learn more about our work in Ethiopia.

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