Padua, 13/11/2021 – The Annual Meeting of Doctors with Africa Cuamm was held today in Padua, at the Gran Teatro Geox. A great event that brought together institutions, supporters, doctors, operators and friends of Cuamm to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Paduan NGO (a year late due to Covid-19), to tell the commitment in Africa and to relaunch a new major intervention.
The meeting was an opportunity to present the results of the major programme “Mothers and children first. 1000 of these days”, which ended after 5 years: 1,495,215 pre-natal visits carried out; 331,178 assisted deliveries; 10,837 seriously malnourished children treated.
But Cuamm is relaunching. The new major project has also been presented, which will focus on ‘People and skills’, because the training of human resources has always been one of Cuamm’s priorities. A large programme that will involve: 8 countries, 14 hospitals, which has several objectives: 500,000 assisted deliveries, 16,000 malnourished children, 1,500 health managers, 500 Italian and African specialists, 100 operational researches to be carried out.
After initial greetings from the mayor of Padua, Sergio Giordani, who thanked Cuamm for its commitment, Bishop Claudio Cipolla, president of Cuamm, emphasised that Cuamm’s history is a history of vocations born from our ecclesial communities, but also from civil society, and added: “Cuamm has completed 70 years of service to Africa, of service to mothers and children, but also of service to our desire and need to be men and women who find meaning in their lives by spreading and cultivating goodness”.
Great space was given to the theme of the vaccination campaign, with authoritative voices such as Alberto Mantovani, scientific director of the Humanitas Foundation, who said:
“Vaccines are fundamental. In this challenge there is a theme of brotherhood and safety. The variants we are worried about are born in developing countries. It is therefore necessary to vaccinate everyone. And let’s not forget Africa, which has only 5% of its population vaccinated. We have to stop the pandemic here, as well as in Africa, but above all we have to stop another virus that starts in us: the virus of lies and misinformation”.
The message was echoed in the video by Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden: “I am very pleased to have this opportunity to thank Doctors with Africa Cuamm for your decades of work with the US Embassy in the Vatican and the United States in addressing health needs in Africa. Despite impressive scientific successes in rapidly developing several safe and effective vaccines against Covid19, their distribution, as well as that of the various treatments, has not been equal across the planet. A situation painfully obvious to you who work in Africa. We must do better. We have a moral imperative to protect the poor and vulnerable. Please continue, continue your extraordinary work.
Luca Zaia, President of the Veneto Region, recounted the long collaboration between the Veneto Region and Cuamm, stretching as far as Sierra Leone, passing through the Rubano vaccination centre: “In Veneto we have reached 7 million doses, 84.7% of Veneto people are vaccinated. The Rubano vaccination centre, run by Cuamm, has given 25,000 doses with 160 volunteers. Cuamm, and Don Dante, are a guarantee! I would like to thank them and all the 1,600 health workers in the vaccination centres and all the volunteers from Veneto who are committed to the vaccination campaign in our region”.
Long-time friend, Romano Prodi, President of the Foundation for Cooperation among Peoples pointed out: “Today we are celebrating 70 years, but what is there in Italy that lasts 70 years? Governments last one year. Today another thing has become clear to me: the extent and quality of Cuamm’s intervention, which translates into a real and true “let’s help them at home”, with the Africans and together with them. There is much to learn from Africa, unfortunately also suffering. Today you have shown the situation in Central Africa, the living conditions there are unimaginable. In Africa there are many contradictions, but the most important thing is to help that part of Africa that can give a lot”.
Luigi Di Maio, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, emphasised three points: “Africa has only 3% of harmful emissions, but it is paying the greatest price of climate change, we cannot afford it, we must help them, because the more climate change hits Africa, the more terrorism, health and security problems increase. The G20 ministers have all pledged to vaccinate 50% of the world’s population by 2022. Italy has already made available 45 million doses for populations in difficulty.
Then there is the question of debt: the pandemic has increased the debt of all countries, particularly those in difficulty. Italy has made available EUR 4 billion, 20% of all the special drawing rights it has on the International Monetary Fund, to eliminate the credit it had with African countries. It is only the beginning, but we are setting an example. Finally, good news on development cooperation: we have approved, in the Council of Ministers, the new budget law, from 2022 to 2026, every year we will increase the funds for development cooperation by more than 100 million euros, to reach the objective which is to have 0.7% of the funds for development cooperation of the GDP. A European objective. We are doing our best, we have more funds, we have projects. We have the opportunity to allocate funds to realities that know what to do, do their work well, without wasting a penny. We are with you!
Mons. Rocco Pennacchio, Bishop of Fermo, President of the CEI’s Service Committee for charitable interventions in favour of Third World countries, recounted the beautiful experience of the bishops of the Marche region: “I have been president of the committee for about two years, I did not know Cuamm and the great work it does, but when I saw the seriousness of their intervention, as bishops of the Marche region we came up with an idea: usually priests are used to asking for money, for once we decided to put up the money ourselves, each bishop taxed himself of one of his salaries and donated it to Cuamm”.
The voice of Africa was well represented by Franck Houndjahone, Cuamm paediatrician in Bangui: “The Central African Republic has always been affected by civil wars and political crises. Under these conditions, children have been innocent victims without quality healthcare. According to the UN it is a right to receive quality healthcare and this is the dream for the children in the Central African Republic. In this difficult situation, we are very committed to providing quality health care and supporting the training of health personnel, including specialists in paediatrics. Currently, we have seen that in three years, this country’s only paediatric hospital has been able to admit 57,000 children (about 19,000 a year). If we compare it with Padua and with Europe, there is a huge gap”.
Gilberto Muraro, President of the Cariparo Foundation, on behalf of the many foundations that support Cuamm’s work, stressed: “We recognise the high level of efficiency in Cuamm’s work, including in the use of money, with rigorous reporting. On this basis of recognition for the work done so far, I am confident that the foundations will respond well to this new appeal for new Cuamm projects”.
Alongside the foundations, the support of the many local groups and networks that have been activated for Africa is essential, one example being Coldiretti, which has mobilised and involved thousands of people throughout Italy through the Hearts of Gratitude.
“Hope, reconciliation, restart: these are words close to my heart. Restart is also today’s theme. In 2004 I left as a priest for South Sudan, for the first time. Today, after several years of experience in Africa, I can say that Africa can already give much more than material resources to the world, it can give the strength and potential of the human resources it has”, said Cristian Carlassare, bishop-elect of Rumbek, victim of an attack in South Sudan.
In conclusion, Don Dante Carraro, director of Doctors with Africa Cuamm, invited everyone not to be afraid of the future and to extend their hearts and arms: “We must not be afraid of the future, we must have faith and believe that life should be spent, given, without half measures and sacrificed to build a better world. If we cultivate big hearts like those of Abrahm and Moses, two South Sudanese colleagues who lost their lives while doing their work, we will be able to overcome all fatigue, all pain”.