Mesila during COVID-19 crisis
The COVID-19 is having a severe effect on many of Israeli citizens and people all over the world, but its implication for excluded communities and communities without rights, such as the refugees and asylum seekers' community in Israel are particularly harsh.
Since mid-March through mid-May 2020, many members of the community were fired from their jobs. At the peak of the crisis, nearly 80% of households had no income at all and the amount of requests for assistance with food, diapers, baby formula, and rent were four times higher than during the months before the crisis.
In May there was an increase in the number of asylum seekers tested positive for COVID-19 and the majority of the community’s educational frames were closed. Many parents afraid to send their children to schools, daycares and kindergartens and as a result, many children have been at home since March. The need to stay at home with children, the slow opening of the restaurant and hotel sectors, along with the difficulties raised by the employers of the asylum seekers to return them to work, have led to a low percentage of employment even today.
Asylum seekers are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits or other government allowances and most of them have no savings or family support.
After four months in which Mesila has worked day and night in a state of emergency to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the asylum seekers' community, we would like to share with you our activities up to now. From mid-March until mid-July, Mesila’s staff, with the help of 125 volunteers, distributed:
6,948 food vouchers– We share the vouchers with all organizations, schools, kindergartens and municipalities assisting asylum seekers in and outside of Tel Aviv.
2,730 food packages and meals.
440 arts and crafts kits and tablets - distributed to at-risk children and children with special needs.
1,326 diaper packs and baby formulas
500 kits containing masks, alcogel and gloves
Mesila's Advocacy and Support Center received 4,458 applications from community members from in and outside of Tel-Aviv (Lod, Petach Tikvah, Rishon LeZion, Haifa, Jerusalem, etc.). Many of the applicants expressed severe financial and emotional distress. Crowded conditions in small apartments during the lockdown/quarantine period, extreme emotional destress, outbreaks of Post Trauma and depression led to a sharp increase in cases of domestic violence. All the while the social workers are in ongoing telephone contact with all clients (approximately 800 families).
Mesila is a central source of information for the community. Mesila’s staff has taken upon itself to prepare, translate and post on Mesila’s Facebook page, and distribute to all organizations and clients, all vital information published by the Ministry of health and the government, announcements regarding test sites, videos and guidelines for parents with pedagogical content, etc. In addition, we opened a cellular hotline for families and individuals in quarantine, to which they could turn with requests for assistance.
With the outbreak of the crisis, the Mayor of Tel-Aviv-Yafo Municipality, Ron Huldai, announced the establishment of an emergency fund within the Tel-Aviv Foundation, which doubled each contribution received. In the last four months, Mesila raised donations in an unprecedented amount for direct assistance to the community, with which food vouchers, diapers; baby formula, arts and crafts kits, tablets, etc. have been purchased and distributed to needy families.