In mid-March, EMWI ACCESS announced the Rapid Response Grants Contest with the aim of enabling Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), civil movements and civic activists to combat the challenges arising from the COVID-19 crisis. As of April 30, EWMI ACCESS has received over 370 project proposals, of which 15 were selected for funding after a thorough evaluation. All 15 projects were green-lighted at the beginning of April.
The chosen projects reflect the diversity of challenges Georgian society faces due to the pandemic. Each project can be grouped with regard to its main focus:
• Ethnic Minorities - EWMI ACCESS recognizes language barriers as a major hindrance to procedural and information transparency towards ethnic minority populations, which only rarely speak Georgian. Marneuli-based CSO Salam set up an intensive awareness-raising campaign in Gardabani, Marneuli and Bolnisi municipalities by distributing all information related to COVID-19 and state of emergency measures in Azerbaijani language. Information is spread through social media and banners posted in every pharmacy, grocery shop and town square of Gardabani, Marneuli and Bolnisi municipalities. Radio Marneuli also airs informational videos. Gumbati distributes informational materials in Armenian and Azerbaijani languages in remote villages of Tsalka municipality, while Ajara Democratic Development Union assists the marginalized and under-represented Roma Community of Georgia living in Kobuleti and Batumi municipalities with updated information regarding coronavirus prevention, also helping them receiving relevant state services.
• High-risk Groups - EWMI ACCESS is resolute in providing assistance and equal representation to marginalized social groups. Batumi-based CSO Identoba Youth works closely with HIV-positive people and related risk-groups in Ajara to raise awareness on COVID-19, also having developed a special recommendations kit for people with HIV/AIDS. Association Xenon, on the other hand, provides online, phone and face-to-face consultations with injecting drug users and substance-dependent individuals in Zugdidi and Kutaisi, also having prepared an information booklet on safe usage of drugs during the pandemic. They also retrain personnel of the harm reduction service centers in Tbilisi, Gori, Zugdidi and Kutaisi. Europa Donna Georgia provides counseling and support to cancer patients, family members and caregivers through consultations and online webinars, providing specific and targeted information to this high-risk group. Ialkani protects socially vulnerable groups in Ajara through crowd funding and awareness-raising campaigns to instruct poor families regarding dangers of COVID-19. Civic Initiative Knowledge Cafe focuses on lonely elderly people in Sighnaghi municipality, having developed a complete database identifying their main struggles and mobilizing donations through social media campaigns to meet their needs. Knowledge Cafe will offer various stress-relief activities aimed at elders struggling with isolation and stress caused by social distancing measures amid COVID-19 pandemic.
• Children - EWMI ACCESS supports Studio ‘Velosipedi’ (Bicycle) to inform children regarding social distancing and hygienic norms - by producing an animated episode featuring popular Giraffe Zhoze which will instruct kids in a funny and easily understandable way.
• Distance Learning -The pandemic has resulted in nation-wide shutdowns of schools, creating significant challenges to the education sector. The Ministry of Education supports remote learning as a potential solution, but both teachers and students need assistance to implement and sustain such process. The Coalition ‘Education for All-Georgia’ aims at gathering the expertise of National Teacher Award of Georgia winners and finalists to develop supplementary online educational materials and provide guidance and counseling to teachers and educators.
• Technology - EWMI ACCESS champions new technologies as useful tools to aid in the fight against COVID-19. The Center for Advanced Technologies and Innovations is to develop app CovidBuster to enable users to record daily contact in order to promptly identify clusters in case of infection. The app will, moreover, regularly send out reminders to its users on which actions to take in order to avoid COVID-19.
• Healthcare - Preparedness of the healthcare workers is crucial to successful management of the pandemic— as COVID-19 cases increase, workload of medical personal also does, therefore making best practices and infection control protocols all the more relevant. Thanks to close collaboration between the Welfare Foundation and NCDC, thousands in personnel will be trained on COVID-19 epidemiology, pathogenesis, prevention and control, patient flows management and disinfection of facilities. Expert Giorgi Beria is also conducting similar trainings for 192 health workers from 7 key hospitals in Imereti and Racha regions.
• Fighting Disinformation - The global scale of the pandemic has generated a surplus of information related to COVID-19. It is essential then, to combat false narratives and disinformation, to disseminate facts and educate people to determine trustworthy sources from unreliable ones. In order to combat misinformation, the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics has set up analytical data, information cards and videos in multiple languages (Georgian, Azerbaijani, Armenian, Russian, Abkhazian and Ossetian) to address false claims and redirect citizens to trustable sources. EWMI ACCESS also supports www.prevencia.ge, a COVID-19-dedicated platform committed to debunking myths and disinformation as well as providing daily updates and healthcare recommendations.