From the start of the global Coronavirus crisis Wadi has taken the situation seriously. In February we saw the worrying lack of preparation being made to protect vulnerable refugees living in camps. In the crowded conditions of many refugee camps, Coronavirus would be able to spread like wildfire, with devastating consequences.
Wadi was also concerned with the effects that the total lockdown in Iraq would have on domestic violence, our team was very worried about how to continue working, when so much of their work is focused on long-term relationship and trust building with women and children in difficult situations.
Coordinated Response to the Coronavirus Threat to Refugees living in Camps:
There are two main problems that refugees living in camps face when it comes to Covid-19 the first is lack of access to reliable information, there is no TV, some people have radios, others have smart phones, some people have data plans, others do not, these are excellent conditions for misinformation and fake news to spread, with potentially deadly consequences. In February 2020, in response to the information gap, Wadi in coordination with other organizations and with the help of medical doctors set up the Refugee Corona Information Resource, a Facebook based resource posting practical tips, facts and simple actions that people can take to help protect themselves against the spread of Coronavirus. The page posts are in English, Arabic, Farsi and French.
In order to reach people who do not have access to media, Wadi created a poster campaign, the posters were printed in multiple languages and posted inside several refugee camps.
The second problem that many refugee camps do not have reliable access to hand washing and other basic hygiene. Working with one of our partner NGOs ‘Stand by me Lesvos’ at the infamous Moria camp in Lesvos, Greece a huge effort to sort the long-standing issues of trash pile-up was organized. These efforts were incredible, and most importantly refugees inside the Moria ‘jungle’ came together, self-organised and created to Moria Corona Awareness Team (MCAT). The team has been working to clear all the trash in the camp, and to set up hand washing stations. To date there have been no cases of Corona-virus in the camp, and MCAT is working hard to keep it that way.
Working through the total lockdown in Iraq:
Since March 15 2020 Iraq has been on total lockdown, travel is not permitted between cities or villages, and is being strictly enforced by road checkpoints.
Our seminars in the camps and the rural areas of the KRI, in Duhok, Erbil, Sulaimaniyah, Ranya, Halabja and Garmyan came to a halt. All the activities we hold as part of our ‘No to Violence’ campaign also had to stop.
After a short period of adjustment, and some quiet time, new strategies, concepts and ways of working were developed. Our teams got creative, working together –remotely- they were able to find new ways of raising or relaying the awareness on combating violence against children, women, and the environment through social media, radio and our partners, NWE, Kirkuk Now and others. All of these channels reach different communities of people, for example the radio broadcast of our partner NWE in Halabja targets refugees and IDPs in the nearby camps.
A major concern was the probable increase in domestic violence, and violence against children as families stay at home together under stressful conditions; loss of income, difficulty accessing food, paying rent, children not going to school, making tense situations even more volatile. But how do we reach people when no one (including our trained team members) is allowed to go anywhere?
We decided to involve our followers by asking them to share short clips and tips on how to keep children busy playing, drawing, taking care of green spaces, connecting with elderly friends and relatives through phone calls and video chats, finding ways to help each other. This has been a very positive interactive project during this uncertain and stressful time.
Our teams have also focused very much on ways to help those in domestic violence situations, through the contact with the community that they have built over the years. Anyone who suffers from violation can contact them and can have someone listening to them and if needed inform the Centers of Combating Violence.
Our partners in Halabja, Nwe, recently opened a small sewing factory to produce masks for refugees, IDP’s and the local communiy. In Halabja refugees and IDPs are using the sewing skills they learned at NWE organisation to make masks for locals.
Sewing masks in Halabja
In Dohuk our partners at Jinda are also planning to convert their sewing classes into a small mask making factory, where Yazidi women who were learning to sew are now making potentially life saving re-usable cloth masks for their community.
This pandemic is far from over, but we are adapting quickly and reshaping the way we work to continue our projects.