COVID 19 EMERGENCY - Improving the  Hygienic-Sanitary Conditions of the Selam Palace Community in Rome

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Project location: Italy, Rome
Project start date: April 2020 - Project end date: June 2020
Project number: 2020-009
Beneficiary: Associazione Cittadini del Mondo Onlus

Cittadini del Mondo Onlus was founded in 2002 in order to fight social exclusion in all its forms and help migrants to integrate into Italian society. Since 2006 the Association has been active at 'Selam Palace', a building on the outskirts of Rome Inhabited by political refugees.

Among its activities the Association runs in this building a medical and social help desk offering basic medical advice, flu vaccinations, and help with accessing local social services aimed at integrating occupants into the life of the city. The Association has also established in the vicinity of Selam Palace an intercultural library where Selam inhabitants may spend time and, together with other immigrants in the area, participate in cultural activities. The library also hosts a twice-weekly social and legal help-desk for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Since 2016, thanks to the support of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, the association has had the chance to strengthen the social help desk and to deal with 80 requests for help. A good part of these requests were referred to problems of access to the national health care system; the doctors of the association reported several cases where poverty and exclusion from the system caused serious diseases. Today, an estimated number of 700 people, mostly Eritreans, live inside Selam Pa1ace.

Due to the present health situation caused by the epidemiological emergency from COVID-19,  Cittadini del Mondo Association has been forced to suspend the socio-sanitary help desk operative every Thursday at Selam Palace. The service was interrupted in part for the limitations established in the ministerial decree, in part to protect the workers of the Association (shortage of personal protective equipment, hard to find, put their health conditions at risk).

Health and social workers are still available, by phone or email to manage emergency situations. However, Cittadini del Mondo Association has implemented some alternative operational strategies to continue the assistance for inhabitants of Selam Palace who, especially at this particular moment, are among the most vulnerable categories.

Since the start of the sanitary emergency and for almost a month now, Cittadini del Mondo has run an awareness campaign for the inhabitants of the Palace about the risks related to the current health emergency. Flyers have been prepared and records have, been made containing important information about disease and about the methods of transmission of it and instructions about the measures to be followed in order not to catch or pass on the. virus. All the informative material has been translated into various languages (Italian, English, Somali, Amharic, Tigrinyà, Arabic), shared on website and social media.

About three times a week a worker of the Association was outside Selam Palace, respecting the appropriate rules, for the distribution of the flyers and the disclosure, through the use of a megaphone, of the recorded information. This activity has attracted the attention of people there who, scared of the possibility of transmission, have been cooperative in implementing the appropriate prevention measures for the protection of their own health.

The Association is still currently working for the improvement of the hygienic-sanitary conditions of Selam Palace, purchasing and donating sanitation and hygiene materials an d tools to the inhabitants.

Italian public health institutions have also stepped in to assist the inhabitants of the Palace. Since April 6, after the hospitalization of two people later diagnosed with covid 19, the entire building has been isolated and is currently manned by the army.

A medical tent has been set up for medical triage and screening just outside the Palace, where doctors are currently screening and swabbing the inhabitants of the building.

As of April 19, there were 16 confirmed covid-19 cases and at least 33 suspect cases. These numbers are likely to rise in the next days. The sixteen people who tested positive were put in solitary confinement in hotel facilities. Food supply to the people who are still confined in the building is currently guaranteed by the Italian Civil Protection and by food packages delivered by the Papal Almoner.Some citizens of the neighborhood are also organizing food collections.

At the request of the Civil Protection, the volunteers of Cittadini del Mondo are present outside the building on a daily basis to carry out cultural mediation activities and facilitate communication with the families who live in the building. In addition, a small van of the Italian Civil Protection has been made available to Cittadini del Mondo to make urgent purchases (drugs or other essential items) for the inhabitants of the building.

Cittadini del Mondo received an extraordinary Anti-Covid 19 emergency contribution from the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, to purchase blankets, tracksuits, underclothes for the improvement of individual hygiene conditions of Selam Palace's inhabitants. Furthermore, the Association plans to purchase some sphygmomanometers to make sure that those suffering from hypertension can independently control their pressure to prevent their health conditions from worsening.

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