COVID-19: Switzerland focuses on most vulnerable people

Local news, 16.06.2020

Since the outbreak of the crisis, Switzerland has been supporting many vulnerable people throughout Serbia to cope with the effect of the crisis. Elderly, unemployed, chronically sick people, marginalized groups and migrants benefit alike from Switzerland’s emergency response related to COVID-19.

Over the last couple of weeks, ten thousands of people across Serbia have received food and hygiene packages. Counsellors offer psychosocial support to help people through these challenging times. Several partner organizations of Switzerland implement these activities which are still ongoing.

The Serbian Red Cross is providing assistance to elderly people who live alone. They support vulnerable groups living in deprived settlements and offer special services, such as soup kitchens for those in need and voluntary blood donation. Medical and hygiene equipment for Red Cross volunteers have been purchased and hygiene packages distributed to beneficiaries. Info telephone lines respond to isolated people and provide information and basic psychological support. 

Through its decentralized structure, the Serbian Red Cross is also instrumental for the coordination of the distribution of hygiene and food packages. Several Swiss-funded organizations are active in this field. Beside this humanitarian response, Switzerland puts a strong focus on awareness raising. We deem it important for people to understand the risks and health implications of COVID-19 and the importance of respecting safety measures. 

At the beginning of the crisis Switzerland’s Humanitarian Aid reacted rapidly and sent six tons of tents, blankets and tarpaulins in support of the Serbian migration authorities when they were most challenged. At that point, asylum and reception centers were overcrowded due to stranded migrants. As Serbia prepares for a protracted crisis, Switzerland will support the country with additional items for wintertime, heaters and the like. They are needed to equip temporary shelters for the time when more migrants than the regular centers can accommodate will need support, which is a very probable scenario for the upcoming period. Furthermore, Swiss funds are allocated for food, clothes and educational activities for unaccompanied and separated children refugees living in a shelter in Belgrade.

The specific funds earmarked to respond to COVID-19 and to support those most in need in Serbia sum up to EUR 600 000.

Beside this specific response, several Swiss partner organizations respond continuously to COVID-19 by adapting their work modalities. They organize conferences to discuss the impact of the crisis and possible coping mechanism and shift to online formats for trainings and counselling.