WORLD HEALTH DAY: Salesian Missions highlights medical programs and clinics that ensure poor youth have access to health care
Programs in Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala and India illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe that support this year’s theme, which is focused on health care for all.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 7, 2019) Salesian Missions joins the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations in honoring World Health Day. In 1948, the WHO held the First World Health Assembly and designated the day to mark the WHO’s founding. The first World Health Day was held in 1950 and every year since, has been celebrated on April 7, serving as an opportunity to draw worldwide attention around a particular theme of importance related to global health.
The theme for this year’s World Health Day is a continuation of last year’s, “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere.” The WHO is calling on world leaders to live up to the pledges they made when they agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 and commit to concrete steps to advance the health of all people. This means ensuring that everyone, everywhere can access essential quality health services without facing financial hardship.
The WHO notes that millions of people still have no access to health care at all. Millions more are forced to choose between health care and other daily expenses such as food, clothing and shelter.
Salesian missionaries offer more than 200 medical clinics and hospitals in mostly rural areas around the globe that serve a wide range of medical care needs. Leprosy, otherwise known as Hansen’s disease, has been a focus of Salesian-run medical clinics for more than 100 years. Salesian hospitals for people affected by leprosy and leprosy control programs can be found in Brazil, Colombia, India, Thailand, Macau and a number of nations in Africa. HIV/AIDS prevention programs are also a vital component of Salesian health care initiatives in Africa. In many countries with Salesian programs, dental and other necessary health services are offered.
“The work of Salesian missionaries around the globe goes beyond education,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “We aim to serve the whole person by making sure that basic needs like health and nutrition are met in addition to other social service needs. Medical and dental clinics ensure that those who are living in poverty still have access to the medical care they need even when they cannot afford to pay for it.”
On World Health Day 2019, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight medical and health programs that provide critical services to those living in poverty.
Students from the School of Medical Sciences of Santos, located in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, recently completed the 10th medical trip for the Academic Project of Assistance to Indigenous Peoples (PAAPI). During the trip, 34 student volunteers held medical clinics from Jan. 15-25 at the local Salesian mission and in the surrounding villages of Meruri and Sangradouro in the state of Mato Grosso.
Established in 2009, PAAPI has been providing basic health care to indigenous people while collecting data on home visits and promoting preventive medicine. The student volunteers funded the recent trip themselves with revenue generated by promotions and events and were accompanied by Dr. Marcella Rolim, a Salesian past pupil. Together they set up a clinic in the villages to take care of the local population and talk to them about general health care and personal hygiene.
During the trip, about 7,000 medicines and 600 hygiene kits were delivered by volunteers to the two villages. In addition, pregnant women and children received vitamins and the doctor examined patients with specific medical problems.
The School of Rehabilitation Sciences at Don Bosco University in San Salvador, El Salvador, contributes to the rehabilitation and inclusion of persons with disabilities through professional training in the field. Training standards meet those set by the World Health Organization and the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics. Students graduate with the necessary competencies to provide quality orthotic and prosthetic devices that allow persons with physical disabilities to improve their ability to function and reintegrate into society.
As part of the competency-based training at Don Bosco University, technical orthotics and prosthesis students in their last year of training carry out orthopedic mission trips. During the mission trips, students provide services to persons with disabilities who are in need of the devices but lack the resources needed to obtain them. Some of the orthopedic mission trips are carried out in partnership with local governments or national organizations and some are financed entirely by Don Bosco University.
During 2018, four orthopedic mission trips were carried out by Don Bosco University, delivering a total of 108 orthotic devices of different types and eight lower limb prosthetic devices. Don Bosco University’s orthopedic mission trips will continue in 2019, increasing access to medical rehabilitation for persons with physical disabilities.
Christmas 2018 was the second holiday season that Dr. Roberto Ceriotti, a Brazilian dentist, spent at the Salesian mission in San Benito Petén, Guatemala. Doctor Ceriotti spent the time helping poor youth and their families in need of dental checkups and care. His mother and sister accompanied him to lend a hand.
Salesian missionaries provide a range of educational and social programs for poor youth and their families in the region. Father Giampiero De Nardi, an Italian Salesian missionary active in San Benito Petén, noted the importance of Dr. Ceriotti’s desire to volunteer over the holiday season. He said, “This is the famous sanctity of the house next door. The holiness that makes one happy. The sanctity that changes the world. The holiness we all need in order not to close ourselves up in our small daily problems.”
“Roberto Ceriotti, in fact is one of the many wonderful people who know how to put oneself aside and worry about those who need it most. If only there were more of these people in the world! I feel really small in the presence of this very good person, so busy for the good of the people of San Benito,” Fr. De Nardi added.
Salesian Missions donors are improving the medical care of children in India. Funding for a new mobile medical van and medical assistance booths is helping Salesian missionaries address a number of serious and sometimes chronic health concerns faced by youth in the country. For some youth, this is the only medical care they receive.
Donors have provided funding so that current medical assistance booths operated by Don Bosco Navajeevan Rehabilitation Centers in Hyderabad are able to expand to accommodate care for at least 800 more children each year. The medical booths have already provided medical assistance and intervention to more than 22,000 children to date. This medical intervention includes medical care and check-ups, nutritious meals, specialized care and hospitalization if needed.
In addition, Salesian Missions donors funded a medical van to drive to the remote villages of Iloo Jargo in West Bengal within the New Delhi Salesian Province to treat sick children and family members. The medical van is also used as an ambulance to transport the sick to a hospital that is more than 100 miles away. In this undeveloped region, malaria, malnutrition and especially snake bites are prevalent.
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