The Catholic Church and Healthcare in Africa

Here is an interesting set of data from Stan Chu Ilo's forthcoming book on Aid and Development in Africa (Pickwick).
The Catholic Church is very visible in healthcare services in Africa. She, of all religious groups and private agencies working in the healthcare industry in Africa, has the largest number of private hospitals and clinics providing Medicare and, in some cases, free medical treatment for HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, and people suffering from malaria. This happens even in those African countries where the Catholic Church is not a majority. In Ghana for instance, Catholics make up about 30 percent of the population but control more hospitals than any other private agency in the country. In Africa, the Church works in 16,178 health centers, including 1,074 hospitals, 5,373 out-patient clinics, 186 leper colonies, 753 homes for the elderly and physically and mentally less able brothers and sisters, 979 orphanages, 1,997 kindergartens, 1,590 marriage counseling centers, 2,947 social re-education centers and 1,279 other various centers. There are 12,496 nursery schools with 1,266,444 registered children; 33,263 primary schools with 14,061,000 pupils, and 9,838 high schools with 3,738,238 students. Some 54,362 students are enrolled in higher institutes, of which 11,011 are pursuing ecclesiastical studies. There are in Africa, fifty-three national chapters of Caritas, thirty-four national commissions of justice and peace and twelve institutes and centers promoting the Social Doctrine of the Church.


Anonymous said…
any mention of policy on contraceptives and AIDS???
Robin Parry said…

yes, there is. But the reason I posted this comment is that all I ever hear about re: Catholicism and Africa is AIDS and contraceptives. It's good to have a wider picture.
Anonymous said…
good point !!
Anonymous said…
thanks for this info.

It's a pity the mainstream media cannot focus more widely too.

No one is stopping other organizations from distributing condoms, they are not illegal. If a Hindu opened a vegetarian restaurant and someone complained they didn't serve beef, the obvious response would be "no-one is stopping you opening a beef restaurant down the road"

Anonymous said…
When you say "health care" do you mean like the kind provided by mother Theressa's ilk? That is not medical treatment it's a suffering pit.

The problem with contraceptive issue is the church has a stake in many of these people's very existence and when you are told your god commands condoms will send you to hell and cause suffering for your whole country. That is not just some "vegetarian restaurant" as stated by the other commenter. There are serious social, moral, and culpability issues concerned here.
Robin Parry said…

I mean "health care" (hospitals and the like). Mother Theressa did not provide health care but comfort for the dying. From your tone it sounds like you disapprove of the care she offered because it was not a place of physical healing.

There are issues re: contraception and I have no interest in defending the Catholic line here. But my point is, and remains, that all one ever hears about in the mainstream press is about Catholics and condoms in Africa. That is an issue but we are seeing myopically if that is all we can see! Sure, let's talk about it but let's not forget that the Catholic church has brought a HUGE amount of good to Africa yet one never hears about it.
Anonymous said…
As a life long Catholic, I,m overjoyed you posted this.

Thank you
Mike said…
Hi Robin, I was looking for those statistics to support an argument elsewhere - the figure I had was that the Catholic Church provides 80% of healthcare in Africa.

I have lived and worked in Africa for 20 years now and have seen first hand that is done by the Church. Our company usually looks for an orphanage near a project site at Christmas to make some donations and we have never been to anything other than a Catholic orphanage or Mother & Child Centre - they seem to have a monopoly.

I was but am no longer a Catholic having become an atheist after a long period of agnosticism. Dawkins book helped me take the final step but I have since found the strident atheists' excessive dislike of the Catholic Church as more than distasteful.

Growing up in Liverpool I made a lot of good friends with the parish priests and the Christian Brothers who ran my secondary school. There was never any talk or even a rumour of child abuse etc.

Like countries the Church has it's corrupt leadership and errant members of it's clergy - but most are decent and humble; in my personal experience all of them.
Robin Parry said…

How lovely it is to hear positive things said about Catholicism from an ex-Catholic atheist! Living in the UK, as I do, it seems to me that there is a very strong anti-Catholic sentiment in popular culture. That was the case after the Reformation took hold but it has now morphed into a secular variety. You'd swear that all the evils in the world were the result of Catholicism the way some secular media pundits speak. I have problems with aspects of Catholicism—I am sure that the Pope does too. But we here seem unable to see past certain symbolic issues.

As you say, an institution as huge as the Catholic Church is going to have a lot of problems and while such problems need attention they should not blind us to the bigger picture.

Re: Dawkins. I must confess that I find him to be great on biology (lovely and clear and often convincing) but bad on philosophy and theology. There are not some devastating critiques of his work available.
Mike said…
Hi Robin, thanks for your kind words! I am continually shocked at how Catholics are almost regarded as the anti-Christ and this is very common from the so called Pastors in the new churches in Africa.

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church does not offer wealth or success or miracle cures. There is however, a growing backlash against these new churches as they have opened their own schools and universities paid for by the income from their poor members who cannot now afford to send they children the these institutions!

Kind regards,
Nick Ponzio said…
Thanks for this. I also hear so many criticisms regarding the "services" like aborting one's son or daughter, that the catholic Hospitals don't do. They forget about the lives saved often at no cost. I wonder which of these hypocrites would rather stay in an Ambulance and die of a Heart Attack or Kidney Failure because the Catholic hospitals dont Abort! And then there is the Anti-Mother Teresa bigotry. So many criticize her for not using pain meds. Yet not one of them went to India with an alternative plan!
Nick Ponzio said…
Bigots. Catholics dont offer Abortion so the millions of lives saved don't count? Which of you would rather die in an Ambulance of kidney failure or Heart attack than go into a Catholic Hospital? Then there are those who hate mother teresa because she did not use pain meds? Which of you went to India or Africa and opened your own clinic?
nikhil said…
Nice Blog, thank you for sharing the information.
South Africa’s local non-profit organization .And run by Harish Jagtani

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