(30 May 2020) Every Saturday since early April, hundreds of people, mostly undocumented foreign workers or poor workers in Switzerland have waited to receive help.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic which was shone a light on a fragile population in the rich city of Geneva, a group of Swiss aid organisations have gathered to distribute food to those in need.
The association Caravane de Solidarité (Caravan of Solidarity) was one of the first to act, from 120 bags they now distribute 3,400 bags.
All the food comes from donations.
“We asked ourselves why the flow are increasing each week, we realised that there is a lot of precariousness also with people who do have a legal status and also who are Swiss,” explained Caravane de Solidarité president Silvana Mastromatteo.
Geneva city hall decided to help by proposing to organise the distribution inside an ice rink.
Noella Garcia Ramirez is one of the beneficiaries of the scheme.
Originally from Colombia, as her daughter had lived in Geneva for 11 years, she decided to come to Switzerland.
She has no legal work permit so she works only by being not declared.
Before the pandemic Ramirez could earn 600 CHF (630USD) doing odd jobs, but those work opportunities were no longer available under lockdown measures.
“At first, I was a bit sad, but now, when these kinds of people who help us give us love, give love for us, I feel it’s a blessing ” she says.
According to the Swiss Federal Stastical Office, in 2018, 8% of the population was considered as poor, which corresponds to more than 600,000 people.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is supporting the scheme to provide help to people who need access to medical advice and treatment.
MSF medical coordinator for Switzerland Roberta Petrucci said she would have “never imagined” being part of an operation in Geneva before the pandemic.
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