Offering dignity can save lives

Most of our money goes on food but one of the things we are proudest of is how we worked with Caritas Cyprus, the Cyprus Refugee Council and the Cypriot Ministry of Health to prevent deaths and severe illness from Covid-19 in 2021.

In just 6 weeks, we helped 3,000 asylum seekers (who would otherwise have had no access) to get COVID vaccinations.

While Covid-19 vaccinations became available for the general population in the spring, they were effectively out-of-reach for those not part of the national health scheme. This included asylum seekers.

The process to secure a vaccination appointment was prohibitively difficult (requiring the filing of forms and submission of multiple documents, interfacing with inconsistent Greek-language services, secure mailing addresses and working telephone numbers, etc).

Caritas Cyprus raised this issue with the Ministry of Health who acknowledged the challenges it was facing in reaching marginalised populations.

We provided outreach to the migrant community, offered information about vaccinations to those who wanted to be vaccinated and, in turn, information about these groups to the Ministry of Health.

Some of our members came forward to show that they were willing to be vaccinated to overcome some understandable hesitancy.

We supported vaccination efforts on-the-ground by managing demand and crowds and then providing translations of pre- and post-vaccination forms and instructions.

As we often say, providing food is vital but the food is often a vehicle for offering something more important – a little normality, some agency and dignity.  On this occasion and thanks to some brilliant collaboration, we were saving lives.

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