In order to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in a timely manner, EWMI’s Advancing CSO Capacities and Engaging Society for Sustainability (ACCESS) Project in Georgia promptly announced the Rapid Response Grants (RRG) program for Georgian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), civil movements and citizen groups. The program deploys flexible resources to these groups to take civic action to minimize the spread of infection and address the crisis caused by the pandemic. Response to the program has been very positive, and grants have already been awarded to several grantees.
Quick access to funds allows grantees to address the needs of vulnerable populations throughout Georgia. In the town of Sighnaghi, about 30% of residents are over the age of 65 and are at a higher risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19. These residents have been advised to stay home and practice strict social distancing. For many of them, self-isolation will equal loneliness. With RRG funds, the Civic Initiatives’ Knowledge Café project will support this population by developing a database of elderly citizens living alone in the Sighnaghi municipality; reaching out to them to identify and address their needs; providing them with essential food and medical products; and organizing stress management and relief. To further support this effort, the Knowledge Café also raised funds from 513 local citizens through crowd funding. The Roma community is one of the most marginalized and under-represented communities in Georgia and are especially vulnerable during this pandemic. Roma have a limited access to private housing, social welfare, health care, and education. Inability to speak Georgian creates additional barriers for their integration into the Georgian society. The Ajara Democratic Development Center used its grant funds to launch a hotline for the Roma community living in the Ajara region to help inform them about the COVID-19 risks and prevention measures.
People with underlying health issues are at increased risk for infection, severe illness, and poorer outcomes from COVID-19. With their health in mind, EWMI ACCESS Rapid Response grantee, Identoba Youth, began information- and awareness-raising campaigns on COVID-19 for HIV positive and at-risk groups in Batumi. The organization developed and published a protocol with detailed guidance on what is COVID-19, how it is transmitted, what precautions to take, and how to access necessary health services. Identoba Youth has also started providing individual consultations on the COVID-19-related social and medical issues to the target group members. Another grantee, the Winner Women’s Club launched a Facebook challenge campaign in which the Club members – cancer patient and survivor women – share their personal experiences during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. This activity is part of the Winner Women’s Club effort to support the physical and mental well-being of cancer patient women during COVID-19 and beyond. Rapid Response Grantee Europa Donna Georgia will also use funds to support cancer patients, as well as their families, caregivers, and larger oncology community during the COVID-19 crisis. The grantee will develop infographics and videos about cancer and COVID-19 and facilitate discussion and Q&A via website, social media, and webinar with experts. Rapid Response Grantee Xenon is experienced in working with individuals with substance dependence, which is a high-risk group for COVID-19 transmission and complications. Xenon will use the RRG funds to facilitate a training webinar for Harm Reduction Program staff on COVID-19 issues, develop and distribute print materials and also distribute information by phone call to raise awareness among individuals with substance dependence about COVID-19 and how to avoid contracting it, and to provide personal protection equipment to individuals with substance dependence.
EWMI ACCESS Rapid Response Grants are also being used to ensure that the citizens of Georgia receive accurate and important public health information. Giorgi Beria, the Head of the New Vision University Training Center and National Expert of Education Quality Development, began organizing trainings for front-line medical personnel in targeted health facilities (these facilities have been designated as first, second, and third tier recipients of COVID-19 patients). Training agenda and materials for the targeted health care facilities are based on the national protocol and guidelines and WHO’s and NCDC’s recommendations, and have been vetted by the Regional Public Health Center under the Georgian Ministry of Health. The first three trainings covered 58 nurses, assistant nurses, and doctors from the Kutaisi Clinic L.G. Another Rapid Response Grantee Mirian Jugheli has built up a website cataloging different types of products and services available online in Georgia to ease adherence to the stay-at-home regulations. It includes a section debunking disinformation about COVID-19 and pointing visitors to reliable information. The Rapid Response Grantee Salam received funds to publish new informative posters in Azerbaijani language to raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention measures. The first poster explains the importance of physical distancing and how to maintain it. Another poster explains the importance of regular hand washing and provides detailed instructions on how to do it properly.
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused fear, stress, anxiety and grief among many Georgian citizens, including children. EWMI ACCESS awarded the New Thinking Institute a grant that enabled them to prepare and publish a new animated children’s story in Azerbaijani language to help young children in Kvemo Kartli and other parts of the country cope with the stay-at-home order. This is the fourth animated story by the New Thinking Institute during the pandemic. The stories are based on Azerbaijani fairy tales.
EWMI ACCESS is currently accepting applications to fund other critical rapid response projects in Georgia. More information can be found here.
EWMI ACCESS is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).