GLOBAL HANDWASHING DAY: Salesian Missions highlights programs that provide clean water access and instill good hygiene practices
Clean water projects in Burundi, Ethiopia, India and Mali highlight the work of Salesians around the globe that support this year’s theme of “Hand Hygiene for All.”
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 15, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins the international community in celebrating Global Handwashing Day 2020. The day, organized by the Global Handwashing Partnership, is celebrated each year on Oct. 15 and is dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of hand-washing with soap.
The 2020 Global Handwashing Day theme is “Hand Hygiene for All” and focuses on the recent global initiative calling on all to scale up hand hygiene, especially through hand-washing with soap. This has been especially important in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the World Health Organization, millions of young lives could be saved with access to bar soap and hygiene education. Pneumonia and diarrheal disease are two of the leading causes of death among children under 5 years old. Most are from populations in developing countries who live in extreme poverty. Having access to clean water and soap is one of the best preventive measures.
Working and living in the communities they serve, Salesian missionaries are perfectly positioned to ensure that soap and other hygiene items reach those who need it most. Accompanying education ensures that recipients learn the importance of proper hygiene for good health. Operating primary schools, technical training centers, agricultural schools, youth centers, orphanages and programs for street children, Salesian missionaries are on the front lines assessing what youth and their families need most.
“Clean, safe water, access to soap, and programs teaching about good hygiene, like proper hand-washing, are important now more than ever,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Improving water and sanitation, as well as providing donated soap, brings a sense of dignity to children and ensures that teachers and students are working and learning in an environment that promotes proper hygiene and has safe drinking water. This reduces the number of waterborne illnesses that can affect those in our schools, keeping them away from important study time.”
To mark Global Handwashing Day, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs that ensure youth have access to clean water and soap, as well as hygiene education.
The Salesian Parish in Rukago, Burundi, has access to hand-washing stations thanks to funding from Salesian Missions. This project, which benefited 65,000 people in the parish and local community, provided hand-washing stations in eight churches, 15 schools and the Don Bosco Oratory.
“Installing hand-washing stations in front of churches, offices, schools and playgrounds is an effective means of fighting the coronavirus pandemic while giving the local population the hope of living,” said Father Raphaël Katanga, economer of the Salesian Community in Rukago. “With the funding, we have also supported some vulnerable families from a local indigenous group, who were at risk of facing food shortage due to the limited circulation of goods and people.”
The Don Bosco Center in Mekanissa, an area on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is supplying water to thousands of poor people living in the slums of Koshe and Kore. The Salesian community, with the help of the Planning and Development Office, repaired an old truck and a reservoir tank that has a capacity of 5,000 liters. Water is transported to the area every day so people can wash their hands.
The Don Bosco Center had been serving the local area before the virus by providing education, nutrition and health services to 400 poor youth. Most of the youth, aged 2-15, are street children who have no place else to live or anyone to take care of them. Brother Donato Galetta, a Salesian missionary, has been welcoming these youth for 30 years.
Don Bosco School Mebo, in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, has clean water access thanks to funding received by Salesian Missions “Clean Water Initiative,” which enabled it to build underground water tanks to harvest rainwater. Two of the three tanks have been constructed with the third delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The water tanks have been completed at the school and near the boys’ hostel. A final tank will be built near the girls’ hostel.
Don Bosco School Mebo provides education for 120 boys and 100 girls ages 5-15. There are 125 students who board at the school, along with 12 teachers. Most of the children attending the school come from poor families in the region.
The school needed its own water supply since there are no water sources supplied by the local government. Students and teachers had to use the river for bathing and washing clothes. The water was not safe, and there was a drowning risk for students. Drinking water was collected in small tanks that were not enough to supply the school. The new water tanks will provide clean water access for drinking, bathing and washing clothing, decreasing risk of waterborne illness for staff and students.
Hand-washing stations have been installed in Salesian educational centers in Bamako, Sikasso and Touba, Mali, where educational activities have resumed. Salesian missionaries are well aware of the risks Mali faces during the pandemic, and they are working to protect and support youth and the most vulnerable families in their programs and communities.
Creating a culture of personal hygiene and careful hand-washing is one of the most important prevention measures. Father Romeo Salami, from the Salesian Planning and Development Office of the West Africa Province, is working to ensure local programs have what they need to provide a safe environment for youth. He also wishes to thank all of the people who collaborated in the “Faced with the pandemic, Global Solidarity” project, which raised funds to help these efforts.
“The installation of hand-washing devices in our vocational training centers in Bamako, Sikasso and Touba guarantees the continued education of the most vulnerable,” explained Fr. Salami.
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