NEW ROCHELLE, NY & MONROVIA, LIBERIA (April 9, 2015) Salesian students in Monrovia, Liberia who are returning to their classes after schools were closed during the Ebola crisis, have access to better nutrition thanks to an ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit Christian organization committed to, “feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit.” The fortified-rice meals provided by Feed My Starving Children are given to students during the school day and for some, the meals are the only ones they will have each day.
As of the beginning of April, there were no new cases of Ebola reported in Liberia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Since the outbreak started, WHO has reported more than 9,712 confirmed Ebola cases and 4,332 deaths from the virus in the country. Across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana, more than 800 healthcare personnel have been infected with Ebola and nearly 500 have died since the epidemic began. The WHO has noted that this will have devastating implications for the long-term health of these countries.
Before schools officially reopened in Liberia, Salesian missionaries provided Ebola prevention information and teacher training in preparation for the return to school. School buildings and classrooms were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. A team of educators with the National Catholic Task Force led by Sister Evelina of the St. Teresa’s Convent school in collaboration with the Catholic Education Secretariat, conducted two separate trainings for 528 teachers from 28 Catholic schools located in Montserrado, Bomi, Gbarpolu, Margibi and Grand Bassa Counties.
The first training, conducted during the emergency phase of the response, focused on basic facts and awareness surrounding Ebola prevention. The second training was for select groups of teachers to become Ebola trainers. These teacher trainers provided Ebola prevention workshops and awareness programs for students and other teachers once the schools reopened in February. A guide on Ebola prevention which will serve as a reference for Ebola prevention in schools was circulated among Catholic schools, including Salesian schools in the country.
Now that schools are open and classes have resumed, Salesian missionaries are getting back to the important work of establishing a regular routine for their students. The recent shipment of food aid resulting from the partnership between Salesian Missions and Stop Hunger Now is providing nutritious meals to students each day to help them focus on their studies and improve their overall health. In addition, Salesian programs are helping children get back to school by providing financial assistance to more than 100 families to help them pay school fees.
“Feeding programs like the one in Liberia are helping to meet the needs of the massive number of children around the globe who are hungry today,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Meals children receive at Salesian schools may be their only meals. This food not only encourages them to attend school, it allows them to focus on getting the education they need without worrying about where their next meal will come from. Children cannot learn on an empty stomach.”
Through ongoing partnerships like the one with Feed My Starving Children, Salesian Missions is able to deliver life-saving food aid and other supplies to those most in need.
“Salesian missionaries are an integral part of the existing infrastructure in many countries and Salesian Missions plays an important role in making sure aid from the United States reaches its destination country and gets into the hands of those who need it most,” adds. Fr Hyde.
Salesian missionaries have also turned their attention to helping Ebola orphans. Missionaries in Liberia report close to 530 children who have lost both of their parents to Ebola and another 153 who have lost either their father or mother to the virus across the three West African countries affected. Salesian programs are working to unite orphans with relatives or educational programs and orphanages that will help to provide ongoing care and education. Other Salesian programs are already in the process of providing food, medical care and education to Ebola orphans.
Headquartered in New Rochelle, New York, Salesian Missions has launched an Ebola Emergency Fund to assist Salesian missionaries in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone who are working to help contain the deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. To raise money for the fund, the Catholic nonprofit aid organization has launched an emergency fundraising campaign and is issuing an urgent appeal for donations. Go to www.SalesianMissions.org/ebola to give.