February 11 is the “World Day of the Sick”, celebrated by the Catholic Church on the memorial day of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, to devote special attention to sick people and care-givers. During a pandemic, this day becomes particularly significant and, in accordance to the message of Pope Francis, Doctors with Africa CUAMM underline the importance of global action. No one can be left behind while suffering: neither the patients, nor the health workers, in Italy as in Africa.

Arianna Bortolani, CUAMM’s doctor with a strong background in Africa, now works on the frontline against Covid-19 in Verona, and reflects upon the different condition of sick people in Italy and in Africa.

“Generally speaking, the loneliness experienced during illness is a much common condition in the West than in Africa. In Wolisso, Ethiopia, as well as in South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania, sick people can always rely on the family. They are never left alone. Usually, when there is no chance of recovery, the family aims to bring patients home, to accompany them in their last moments. There is a lot to learn from that. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has made it difficult for everybody to be near sick people as much as carers and patients would like, causing much pain and anguish for all concerned.”

Bortolani adds, “Sick people in Africa, along with the suffering of their disease, also have to face the worry of not having enough money to pay for treatment. Illness could become a catastrophe for the whole family. We are so lucky, in Italy, to have a basically free national health system, with doctors, nurses, and health professionals who take care of everybody with dedication and generosity”.

Father Dante Carraro, director of Doctors with Africa Cuamm, states, “On the “World Day of the Sick” and in the middle of this global emergency, Pope Francis reminds us that ‘investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick is a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good’. It is a commitment we have token since 1950. As the Pope urges us, we try our best so that ‘no one will feel alone, excluded or abandoned’: both in Africa, in the eight countries where we are present, and in Italy, supporting many fragile situations. Today we see this message as an invitation to push forward, fighting the virus in Italy and in Africa. A call not to forget the people who are still dying of malaria, measles as well as malnutrition and childbirth. We must take care of the whole Planet, or we won’t find peace.

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