OMID’s COVID 19 Emergency Appeal April 21, 2020 by Azadeh Akbari As the world grapples with the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the overcrowded refugee camps in Greece are facing their biggest ever challenge. In the Moria camp on Lesbos which was built to house 3,000 refugees but now is home to over 14,000, the daily reality for hundreds of women and children there is violence, food shortages, lack of basic sanitation, sexual and physical violence, overcrowded camps, endless lines for food and medical attention, and that’s just a start. The camp is particularly exposed to the COVID 19 virus. Social distancing is not logistically possible and with one water tap for every 1,500 refugees, and soap being a luxury that many refugees only dream of, the risk of a deadly spread of the virus is imminent. While the Covid 19 pandemic has materially reduced the inflow of new arrivals from Turkey, the governmental and quasi-governmental bodies that are processing the asylum applications have also ground to a halt. Refugees who arrived in late 2019 have been given interview dates for 2021 or 2022, which means that the transition time between the arrival time of a refugee in Greece and her integration in society Greece (if her application is accepted and she is not deported) takes several years. This means that many of their needs are not short term. Life in the camp is a life of constant fear and insecurity. Sexual violence is common, with the police being ill-equipped to dealing with it. Most single young women have experienced incidents of violence and are constantly “at risk”. This video vividly demonstrates the situation: The Covid 19 pandemic is a disaster waiting to happen in the camp. The question is not whether it will happen but when it will happen. Social distancing is not an option in a camp that was built for 3,000 and houses 14,000. With only one water tap for every 1,500 refugees and with soap being a luxury that people only dream about, it is also impossible to implement the most basic hygiene protocol. The only option for OMID is to remove women who are “at risk” from the camps. With the consent of the Greek authorities, OMID vets young women from the camp to identify those which it deems to be “at risk” in order to house them elsewhere on the island, provide them with basis subsistence, and enrol them in online educational programs like English language, and online women group workshops to bolster their self-confidence and emotional well-being. It has also entered into a collaborative arrangement with Fenix Aid, a legal aid charity on the island in order to accelerate the processing of their asylum cases. Close to twenty women have already moved into our first two shelters. Our goal is to raise sufficient funds to house 50 women in five shelters by the end of the campaign. Here are what some of the young women in our first shelter say: I used to think God was not able to hear me in Moria and I knew that I would die when the virus breaks out. But now in the shelter, I feel so much better and feel that God can hear me, Niloofar After 21 months in the hell of Moria camp, I finally managed to sleep in peace last night. But I cannot stop worrying about my friends in the camp, who are losing their sanity not knowing what to do when the Coronavirus starts spreading, Elmira. I was going mad in the camp knowing that there was no way we could protect ourselves when the virus would get out of control. I had almost forgotten my never-ending fears about being beaten, raped and attacked. I feel so safe here in the shelter. I have so many sisters. We are so much stronger together, Elaheh We are glad to have been able to support survivors and what is even more wonderful is that we managed to get them out of Moria camp on the eve of Nowruz. It was a very emotional day and seeing the women’s tears of joy and the ability to mark the start of a new journey on Nowruz was truly touching. However, there are many others like Elmira, Elaheh and Niloofar and you can help bring hope into their lives too. The average cost for providing shelter and safety for one young woman is US$195/month (US$95 for rent and utilities, $70 for subsistence, $30 for educational programs). With 50 women in the shelter program by the end of May 2020, our costs will be $9,750/month or $117,000 until Norouz 2021. Please support this emergency appeal and make it possible to save fifty young women from the hell of Moria and COVID 19.