To do more and better with Africa
Our results for the project’s first year: 55,209 attended births, 2,410 severely malnourished children treated, and 17,167 chronically malnourished patients under continuing care in seven African countries. We came together with numerous volunteers and special guests, including Mario Draghi and Paolo Gentiloni, to take stock of the program so far and look ahead at the challenges for Italy in coming years.
Milan, November 11, 2017 – The Annual Meeting of Doctors with Africa CUAMM was held at the Teatro della Luna in Assago, Milan, to discuss the health challenges of mothers and children in Africa. This was an opportunity to come together with many volunteers and supporters of CUAMM to take stock of the first year of the program “The First 1,000 Days for Mothers and Children.” whose goal in the coming years is to guarantee the right to attended childbirth and nutritional support to 320,000 mothers and their children in their first two years of life in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Several doctors active in Africa shared their first-hand stories: from Giovanni Dall’Oglio’s experiences during South Sudan’s hunger emergency, to Alberto Rigolli’s account of the challenges he encountered in Sierra Leone, where he worked during the Ebola crisis, focusing on maternal and child health. But we also heard about efforts underway in Italy, with migrants in the settlements near Foggia in the region of Puglia, and with people displaced by the earthquake in Arquata del Tronto.
We were joined by several special guests to reflect on the challenges facing Italy and Europe in the near future: Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, and Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, together with the Archbishop of Milan, Mons. Mario Delpini, Mariella Enoc, Romano Prodi, and Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala, in addition to friends and witnesses who recounted several stories of working “with Africa”, including Niccolò Fabi, Paolo Rumiz, Gian Antonio Stella, Stefania Chiale, and Beppe Severgnini.
The event was broadcast live in Italy by Tv2000 and is available for streaming.
CUAMM doctors Francesco di Gennaro and Renato La Forgia, who are active in Bari, and journalist Paolo Rumiz from “La Repubblica” bore witness to the condition of migrants in Puglia, and talked about the small interventions they implement there in collaboration with other local organizations.
More and more young people are saying “Bye, Mom. I’m going to Africa.” Federica Chiale, a resident doctor who recently returned from Tanzania, talks about how her experience in Africa has changed her life and her way of being a doctor. Her story was the subject of an important feature written by her sister, the journalist Stefania Chiale, for “7 Corriere,” a weekly supplement of “Corriere della Sera” — a choice supported by the supplement’s editor Beppe Severgnini in order to promote young talent and openness to the world.
The Archbishop of Milan Mons. Mario Delpini emphasized that “the purpose of doing good is in the small actions that keep history moving forward.”
How are we moved by coming face to face with ongoing conditions of emergency and need? Alberto Rigolli gave us some insight into the answer after his return from one year at the hospital of Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, where he cared for mothers and children as part of the difficult fight against maternal and child mortality.
Neema Lazaro, a community expert in Tanzania, proudly shared the story of how much can be done by taking practical steps every day with communities to promote lifestyle changes and improve the condition of acutely and chronically malnourished children.
Giovanni Putoto, a programming manager for CUAMM, explained the rationale for and approach to expanding the “First 1,000 Days for Mothers and Children” program.
CUAMM project manager, Fabio Manenti, provided rigorous evidence of the results achieved in the first year of the “First 1,000 Days for Mothers and Children” program. Extraordinary results have been achieved by the quiet, daily work of many people: in 12 months we have made sure 55,209 births were attended, and we have offered nutritional tests for 17,167 children under the age of 5.
Public health doctor Giovanni Dall’Oglio’s poignant testimony let us glean the hardship of war and the suffering of its most vulnerable victims—women and children—under the general instability of war, conditions of insecurity, and the hunger emergency. He also gave us a glimpse of hope in the ability to bring relief, assistance, and care to the Nyal swamps in South Sudan; all with the obstinacy that comes from our mission to help the most vulnerable groups.
Gian Antonio Stella, journalist for “Corriere della Sera,” placed the problem of displaced persons and refugees from South Sudan in the wider context of world migration: an irreversible process with which we must come to grips, and which he confronted during his visit to a refugee camp in Gambela, Ethiopia, where Doctors with Africa CUAMM is active.
“Throughout all these years, we have witnessed a full-fledged disaster made of political mistakes in Africa. In the still fragile African context, it is essential to be conscientious and to support each other as we provide aid, leaving the colonial past behind and looking to the future.” This was the passionate appeal from Professor Romano Prodi, President of the Foundation for Collaboration between Peoples.
MARIO DRAGHI – President of the European Central Bank
“I am struck by the power of today’s first-hand accounts; they are the expression of a direct, unmediated involvement. Tens of hundreds of thousands of lives depend on the actions of CUAMM doctors. The power of these experiences pulls us out our everyday lives and is evidence of the inherent human will to do good. During the 1980s, when I represented Italy in the World Bank, there was a great push to bolster aid, but there was also a lot of wastefulness, which eventually led to a collapse of this effort and to a feeling of there being an unbridgeable abyss. However, today’s accounts show that those economists who say that aid does not bolster growth are wrong; it is wrong to be discouraged. I would like to quote Don Dante Carraro, who said that what makes the difference is passion and dedication. The strength of what we believe in changes reality, and so much so!”
PAOLO GENTILONI – Italian Prime Minister
“Thank you all for what you do and for the example you set, which benefits not only you but all of Italy. For my generation, Africa was first a lost continent, and then a continent of hope, with its large growth rates. But, today, we must have the honesty to recognize that those hopes are in danger. Africa is not making it on its own, but it can make it, and whether it does depends in part on our choices and on Europe’s commitment. During years of crisis, we nonetheless doubled our aid, and we can still do much more. For us, the continent’s stability is strategic. Italy is the only country that has a fair migration policy. When the President of the European Commission Juncker says that Italy has saved Europe’s honor on this matter, we are proud to be Italians. We do not build walls, and we do not close ports, but we do work to reduce the influx of criminals.”
DON DANTE CARRARO – Director of Doctors with Africa CUAMM
“We are not here to congratulate ourselves, we are here because we really want to tell everyone that we believe in and love this beleaguered continent. Young people ask us to help them stay there, and today we all have to do more and better for Africa. We must have the courage to believe that change is possible, to give a boost to a continent that is looking for one. Africa is at a constant crossroads between its trauma and its exuberant energy, an energy that draws you in and infuses you with life.”
This program was created with the support of Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo, Fondazione Cariplo, Fondazione Cariverona, Compagnia di San Paolo, as well as that of many large and small donors.
The event was sponsored by the Prime Minister’s Office, the National Federation of Midwives and the National Federation of Surgeons and Dentists.
Media partners: Tv2000, Buone Notizie / Corriere della Sera, Avvenire, Corriere del Veneto, Milano Sette, Chiesa TV, Radio Marconi, Il Segno, and the Archdiocese of Milan.
Doctors with Africa CUAMM is a member of Link 2007 – Cooperazione in Rete.