As we enter a new phase of living with the dangers of COVID-19 Wadi’s approach has continued to evolve to preempt potential threats, and to react to the current situations. Our efforts have been focused on both the areas of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, Dohuk in Northern Iraq and the Moria/Karatepe refugee camp and its surrounding ‘jungle’ in Lesvos, Greece.
Coronavirus in Kurdistan
On September 5, 2020 Kurdistan recorded a new infection record, over 5,000 new cases in a single day! Hospitals warned that if this continues, they may ‘lose control’. As the situation deteriorates from Dohuk to Halabja and Ranya to Germian all Wadi teams and their partners in the field continue to intensify their efforts to inform people about the basic steps they can take to protect themselves and each other. There is still a lot of misinformation and ‘fake news’ being shared about Coronavirus, and there is a large cultural resistance to practicing basic prevention measures such as social distancing and mask wearing. These efforts are part of our ‘Citizen to Citizen Corona Campaign’. This campaign promotes the message of unity and individual responsibility, where community members encourage each other to wear masks in public and practice social distancing. The campaign has worked non-stop in cities, villages and refugee camps to:
- put up posters at bus stops,
- put up posters outside supermarkets,
- worked with local shops to place social distancing stickers
- worked with schools to place social distancing stickers
- sewing masks and distributing masks
- sharing flyers and raising awareness
These activities are an extension of Wadi’s ‘No to Violence’ campaign and have used social media and local radio to amplify their message.
Corona Virus in Lesvos (Greece)
A considerable time before the fire the virus had entered the Moria refugee camp! The situation on the island of Lesvos, has changed dramatically, with local infection rates now in the 100s. The local hospital has run out of beds, and the situation is urgent. We continue to support our partners who are self organised refugees as they produce hundreds of masks to distribute free to other refugees in the camp. The Moria Coronavirus Awareness Teams (MCAT) are working overtime to inform refugees in the Moria camp and surrounding camps -commonly referred to as ‘the jungle’. Wadi would like to highlight that the conditions inside Moria; crowded tents, no bathrooms, and no running water continue to make the basic corona prevention measures (hand washing & social distancing) extremely difficult to implement. Although we have been working with local partner Stand by me Lesvos since February to support refugees setting up hand washing stations inside the camp, they are not a replacement for having proper, safe, and clean living conditions. There are many elderly and vulnerable people in the camp, and the potential for human devastation of such a contagious and dangerous disease cannot be overemphasised! For more please watch this video taken by MCAT.
About the Beginning of the Campaign
In February 2020, Wadi determined that there were 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 response to the information gap, Wadi in coordination with other organisations 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 organised. 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.