(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Mission in Tonj, a town in the northwest region of South Sudan, has been able to support more than 3,500 internally displaced people with a recent COVID-19 initiative. The organization received support from Salesian Missions in Madrid, Spain, to offer help to those internally displaced in Tonj and the western state of Bahr el Ghazal.
Families found themselves faced with violent border conflicts and were left homeless. They were forced to take refuge in the adjacent forests without food, water, shelter, sanitation and medicine. After being contacted and registered as internally displaced, the families received basic necessities from the Don Bosco Mission.
Those receiving the donation expressed happiness and great appreciation for the commitment of Salesian missionaries who have continued to provide support to vulnerable communities and those most affected by conflicts. In addition to the distribution of primary goods and medicines, radio programs were also broadcast in recent months with measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
"The health standards of families, and especially of children, have improved thanks to the supply of medicines," said Father Joseph James Nakholi, a Salesian in South Sudan. "The population has also recovered emotionally and psychologically after the intervention of the Salesians."
Salesian missionaries have been working in Tonj for several years. Their focus has been on providing education and social development services for poor youth through the operation of primary and secondary schools and youth centers. In addition, the missionaries operate several medical clinics, including a leprosy clinic, as well as a hospital.
Support through this initiative was also provided to people with leprosy who live in a village, thanks to the intervention of the Salesian Mission Office of South Korea and the John Lee Memorial Foundation, which was launched in memory of the late Korean Salesian missionary Father John Lee, to help the mission in South Sudan.
The leprosy program was started by Fr. Lee who arrived at the Salesian mission in Tonj in 2001. He remained until 2008 when he went on a trip to South Korea. It was there that doctors discovered Fr. Lee had cancer, and he passed away 14 months later. During his time in South Sudan, Fr. Lee constructed an outpatient clinic and made repairs to the primary school building.
A hospital named for Fr. Lee was opened in Tonj in late July 2014 after four years of planning and construction. The current facility consists of maternity and surgical wards and a residence for medical and administrative staff. The hospital was fully operational in 2015. Volunteer doctors from Italy provide medical care at the hospital.
South Sudan is expansive and largely rural with 83 percent of the population residing in rural areas. Poverty is endemic with at least 80 percent of the population defined as income-poor and living on the equivalent of less than $1 per day, according to the World Bank. More than one-third of the population lacks secure access to food.