Democratic Republic of the Congo – Prevention and solidarity in recovery center for children at risk in Bakanja

22 April 2020

(Lubumbashi) - Currently, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the coronavirus does not seem to have broadly affected the country: 165 confirmed cases, with six victims, mostly in the Kinshasa area. But considering the health system, prevention is the main weapon: if an outbreak arises, the risk of a massacre would be high. “And Africa would not be Africa without all its traditions of witchcraft, the search for culprits …,” comments Fr Eric Meert, a Belgian Salesian missionary active at the Bakanja Salesian center, just outside Lubumbashi. The commitment of the Sons of Don Bosco thus focuses on providing information and taking care of the children most at risk.

Lubumbashi, the country's second largest city, has yet to register any cases. But since 19 March several preventive measures have been imposed there too. Which, however, are not well seen by everyone, because restrictions to some appear to be a worse remedy than the evil itself, especially for those who live off odd jobs or the informal economy: “Even if we must implement security measures, we must still let people work. So all men and women have to go out and get something to eat. If there are no coronavirus cases and we are asked to stay home, how will we live?” says an inhabitant of Lubumbashi.

“For our part,” continues Fr Meert, “we try to sensitize and protect young people and children as much as possible, teaching them how to protect themselves and the educators.”

For the young people currently staying in Bakanja-Ville, the Salesians have made efforts to make the restrictions more attractive: “We have proposed a new way of greeting each other: with one's feet or elbows. Guaranteed fun!,” says the Salesian.

And while the importance of washing hands regularly was also explained to the children, two volunteers from the center are sewing masks for all the young and the educators. A final measure being undertaken is the daily cleaning of the center: the rooms are disinfected every day with a chlorinated solution.

The thought of the Sons of Don Bosco, however, also goes to those young people who still live on the street. Not being able to welcome them at Bakanja, in order to not endanger the other boys at risk, the Salesians made several patrols around the city. Fr Meert continues: “We talk for half an hour with each group we meet and make sure they repeat all the elements to pay attention to in order to prevent infections. We have indicated a hospital to them that will be able to receive them in case of problems, since many are used to coming to us for treatment.”

Their model - Don Bosco, who during the cholera epidemic in Turin had deployed his boys in the streets to help the sick, so too the Salesians also have in mind a program of distribution of food and soap for needy young people. “We would not be Salesians if we did not take example from Don Bosco,” concludes the missionary.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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