SUPPORTING VULNERABLE PEOPLE IN THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMICApr 8, 2021
People in Need (PIN), together with its partner organisations, is mitigating the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting the socioeconomic sustainability of vulnerable groups in Eastern Partnership countries, including Georgia.
Alex Tsevelidze, 44, lives with his wife and child in the Ochkhamuri settlement in the Georgian town of Kobuleti. As an anchorman for a weekly television programme for disabled people, his programme was at risk by the pandemic when travel to and from work became a challenge. “With the outbreak of the pandemic and the suspension of intercity traffic, all types of mobility were threatened and the future of my program became unclear,” he says.
Tsevelidze, a person with vision impairment, is one of hundreds of people with disabilities who benefit from the services of the EU-funded project “Supporting Disabled Communities in Overcoming the Barriers Caused by COVID-19.” Implemented by the Coalition for Independent Living, with PIN’S support, the project aims to empower people with disabilities in emergency situations.
The free services provided as part of the project include the dispatch of mobility assistants, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists, who offer assistance to people with disabilities based on the needs they report through a hotline. The services were launched several months into the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the high demand, services were resumed after a short break in January 2021, and will be available for an additional seven months.
While people with disabilities in mountainous and rural settlements often had difficulty accessing high-quality social and healthcare services even before the pandemic, COVID-19 prevention measures and travel restrictions have further exacerbated the situation. The mobile outreach groups, set up in the Adjara, Guria, and Samegrelo regions, have enabled people with disabilities to access much-needed services.
Tsevelidze says: “The distance from my house to Batumi is more than 40 kilometres, and I have to change buses twice to get there. Then, when I get to Batumi, I need another mode of transport to move around the city. Working in television without any pay, I can hardly afford to travel around by taxi. In this sense, the project has played a decisive role in ensuring the continuity of my work.”
Tsevelidze says he hopes that the services will be available in the future as well, with the state taking over the necessary expenses.
This project is part of a larger effort, the EU-funded “COVID-19 Solidarity Programme for the Eastern Partnership,” to mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19 and to contribute to the long-term socioeconomic resilience of vulnerable groups in several countries, including Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine. PIN is implementing this programme in partnership with the Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) and AFEW International (AFEW) to support civil society organisations helping those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.