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Our embassies are experiencing a hectic period in these corona times, especially in those countries where compatriots are stuck and finding it difficult to return home. This means exchanging a lot of phone calls and e-mails, discussing with other European countries whether Belgians can use their flights or book their own repatriation flights.
But the staff at our embassies are also confronted with the suffering caused by this corona crisis, particularly in the countries where they represent Belgium. This is why several embassies are organising relief operations. Some examples.
Food packages in Mumbai
In India, the corona crisis has hit hard and is particularly affecting the weakest in society. Numerous domestic servants were fired and sent home by their employers. With no income and no prospect of a job before the end of the lockdown, hunger and despair are looming.
The consulate general in Mumbai has joined forces with the National Domestic Workers' Movement (NDWM), a movement founded by compatriot Sister Jeanne Devos. It defends the rights and interests of domestic workers in India and fights against child labour.
Our post in Mumbai purchased food parcels that were distributed through the NDWM network to single women with children. This way, 350 families, more than 1,000 people, will be helped to overcome this difficult period.
Facial screens in Dar es Salaam
The Belgian diplomats posted in Tanzania in turn donated part of their representation budget to a local hospital. Goal: to produce 500 facial screens. The hospital was founded 20 years ago by a Belgian. It does not treat Covid-19 patients, instead focusing mainly on people with disabilities. Using 3D printers, it can print prosthetics itself.
But thanks to the donation, the 3D printers will be used to print facial screens. These will be given away free of charge to health workers in several hospitals active in the fight against Covid-19 in Dar es Salaam. After all, Tanzania's economic capital – with 6 million inhabitants – is the epicentre of the epidemic.
Berlin, Warsaw and Geneva
Our embassy in Berlin decided to donate money to the Berliner Tafel and to help with this ourselves. The Berliner Tafel is a kind of local food bank that serves meals to the most needy. The association has already been able to distribute 12,500 food parcels during the corona crisis.
Our diplomats in Warsaw decided to give something back to the health workers who work there on a daily basis in the fight against Covid-19. Good meals will be distributed twice a week, including at the Warsaw Children's Clinic. The chef at the embassy is in charge of the preparation.
Finally, in Geneva, employees donated part of their representation expenses to the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), amounting to 18,000 euros in total. The IFRC supports national Red Cross and Crescent societies all over the world in assisting the local population in this corona crisis.
Alongside the IFRC, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is also based in Geneva. Our embassy will work to ensure that, once a vaccine is found, it should be available to everyone.
These are always relatively small actions that will nonetheless make a difference for a considerable number of people!