Covid-19: How we are responding

As Covid-19 impacts globally, we are working with 66 partners in 15 countries to adapt our programmes and ensure we can still reach the most vulnerable people in the most effective way.  

In our initial phase we are doing the following:

  • Older Jewish People - Ukraine

Our biggest portfolio of work is with older Jewish people in eastern Europe, predominantly Ukraine. In the last year we reached 19,000 with a variety of vital services.  We focus on reaching the most vulnerable individuals, often meaning they are alone with no other financial support.

Due to Covid-19 we have had to pause our 'Active Ageing' programmes which provided day centre activities and projects to combat loneliness. Where possible, funding for these activities has been redirected to providing food parcels and medicines to the most needy, as well as protective equipment to them or their carers. We are also ensuring social connections can be met through internet and phone support for these people who are now more isolated than ever.

We have had to greatly reduce our homecare provision in order to protect both the care workers and the elderly they support. Anyone over 60 in Ukraine has been instructed to self-isolate which includes around 30% of our homecare staff. We are now focussing on getting homecare to people who are bed bound and have no family, and to providing material support in the form of food, hot meals, medicines, soap and other supplies. We are also working to have as many homecare workers as possible approved as essential workers by the authorities, and where public transport is no longer available, to provide means of travel. 

We are continuing our support of Beit Baruch Care Home for older Jewish people in Dnipro, Ukraine, by providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hygiene materials including soap, hand sanitiser and cleaning materials. This is particularly essential in a care home environment where risks of infection are acute. We will also provide medications including painkillers, flu treatments and vitamin and mineral supplements.

  • Employment programmes for Jewish people, Ukraine

We train vulnerable people to gain skills and find work, allowing them to fend for themselves and provide for their families. This can include single mothers, people fleeing conflict in eastern Ukraine, women returners and families with no other means of support. 

Most of our partners have been able to quickly adjust their programmes to provide online support, however many of our alumni and graduates have lost jobs as a result of Covid-19 and will be amongst the hardest hit by the emerging economic emergency. Where possible, we will be providing material support, mainly food, to help them as they adjust. We are exploring online employment opportunities and helping students to apply for relevant positions.

  • People in the conflict zone, eastern Ukraine

The impact of Covid-19 has been acutely felt in eastern Ukraine, where conflict is still ongoing and access to healthcare is already compromised due to the instability of the region. Many of the health care centres in this region do not have access to even the most basic personal protective equipment or cleaning materials causing concern that this may become a hotspot for Covid-19 to spread. Additionally, almost 36% of the region’s population are older people, many of whom live alone and have limited mobility, meaning they are unable to access food and other basic materials, exacerbated by the closure of Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia. According to the 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), the elderly account for almost one-third of the people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection services (which equals some 1.1 million elderly people in need of humanitarian assistance), many of them live alone and have either a form of disability or limited physical mobility.

We are assisting a local hospital with care items, including medical masks for doctors and disposable masks for patients, as well as providing disinfectant and hand sanitiser.  We are also distributing food packages with enough provision for two months to 200 households of older people, single parent families and families with many children.

  • People with disabilities in Ukraine and Moldova.

We run programmes helping people with disabilities to gain independence. Many are high-risk and now unable to leave the house, and carers may be prevented from coming into their homes, putting further impact on their families. For those with learning difficulties it is difficult to explain why they are no longer allowed outside to socialise. We are providing online classes to over 200 participants providing information, psychological support and physiotherapy. We are also delivering food packages to 120 of the most vulnerable people with disabilities to help relieve some of the pressure on their families. 

  • Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

There are 855,000 Rohingya Refugees currently residing in 34 overcrowded makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The population of these camps are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 with the overcrowded camp conditions, lack of services, widespread poverty, and underlying vulnerabilities. We have previously distributed emergency aid to Rohingya refugees.  

We are distributing 50,000 leaflets in both Bangla and Burmese languages, along with easy to understand pictures, demonstrating correct prevention and good hygiene practises. We are providing hygiene items including soap and face masks, as well as food packages to 700 families that will enable them to eat nutritiously for two weeks, the initial period of the lockdown in the area.

  •  Refugees, UK 

Our STEP programme (Specialist Training and Employment) helps resettled refugees gain skills and find employment opportunities. We have conducted an audit of our client group to determine who can access the internet. Where relevant we have secured loans of laptops, phones and bought data so that they can access our classes and one-to-one support online. We are re-focussing training and qualifications to the current job market, ie. delivery drivers. We are also providing information leaflets about Covid-19 prevention in the languages and dialects spoken by the refugees we support. Unfortunately 40% of the refugees we have helped into employment, particularly in the hospitality industry, have now lost their jobs.  We are providing supermarket vouchers to help those in greatest hardship.  

  • Haiti

Haiti has been identified as one of the most at risk countries from Coronavirus due to widespread poverty, illiteracy and poor healthcare systems.  We have previously worked extensively in the region, responding to the 2010 earthquake and the 2016 hurricane. Using our existing networks, our focus is on providing information that can help prevent the spread of the disease. This will be through radio, roaming recorded messages, and influential community leaders.

  • Rwanda and Uganda

Our agricultural training programmes, helping young people affected by poverty to create viable livelihoods, are continuing via online training, WhatsApp support groups and applying social distancing measures whilst working in the fields. We have also provided water taps and hand sanitiser. Our vocational training in areas such as hospitality and hairdressing is being adapted to online provision.

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