In Geneva, the COVID-19 reveals in broad daylight misery

À Genève, la COVID-19 révèle au grand jour la misère

À Genève, la COVID-19 révèle au grand jour la misère

Thousands of people have waited for food in Geneva on Saturday.

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May 9, 2020 22h51

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In Geneva, the COVID-19 reveals in broad daylight misery

Nina Larson

Agence France-Presse

GENEVA — IN Geneva, one of the most expensive cities in the world, they were thousands lined up Saturday for food. In the swiss city, the crisis of the COVID-19 reveals in broad daylight misery.

In this city known for its private banks, its watchmakers luxury and fine shops, the queue started forming as early as 5 a.m. in front of the skating rink of the Vernets, according to the association Caravan of Solidarity, the main organizer.

When the distribution began, four hours later, the queue, where people wore masks and stood two meters away from each other, stretching for about 1.5 km.

For the organizers, there were more than 2000.

“We’re a little crescendo,” said to theAFP the director of Caravan of Solidarity, Silvana Mastromatteo. This distribution was the sixth held since the beginning of the crisis of the novel coronavirus, and each time the demand is stronger.

À Genève, la COVID-19 révèle au grand jour la misère

According to the federal statistical Office, approximately 8 % of the swiss population, roughly 660,000 people, live in poverty, approximately one million considered to be in a precarious situation.

AFP, Fabrice Coffrini

Silvia, 64, a native of the Philippines, has been waiting for three hours. “We need food,” she said.

“Everything is so much more difficult since the beginning of the crisis,” she says, adjusting the scarf over his mouth and nose.

Switzerland has put in place in mid-march, a series of emergency measures, including the closure of the restaurants and most other businesses. The virus has killed more than 1,500 people.

The country has started to gradually remove such measures, but the quasi-shutdown of the economy for two months has had terrible consequences for the undocumented workers and, more generally, the population is particularly vulnerable.

According to the federal statistical Office, approximately 8 % of the swiss population, roughly 660,000 people, live in poverty, approximately one million considered to be in a precarious situation.

“Under the radar screen”

“This population exists,” admits Isabelle Widmer, in charge of the coordination of assistance in these times of pandemic in the city of Geneva, the distribution of which is organized by Caravan of Solidarity.

But “what is amazing is how much this population has been weakened with the crisis, and the effort that now needs to be done to support them,” she adds.

Behind it, volunteers, waistcoats, yellow and fluorescent orange on the back, piling the bags of food behind tables topped with bottles of disinfectant.

Approximately 1500 large shopping bags filled with rice, pasta, instant coffee, or cereal are stored along the walls of the grand entrance hall, and fill a hall nearby.

A large pile of reserves a throne in a corner, near a mountain of empty bags, ready to be filled if necessary.

And if the reserves of food are exhausted, a purchase of 20 swiss francs (a little less than 19 euros) will be distributed, ” explains Patrick Wieland of the NGO Doctors without borders (MSF), co-organizer.

“There is in Geneva a poverty that is a little hidden, under the radar screens. ”


Patrick Wieland, Doctors without borders (MSF)

MSF also offers tests COVID-19 persons with symptoms.

Miguel, 27 years old, is Colombian. Without papers, he works in a restaurant. “The virus has changed dramatically. There is more work. Nothing. The restaurants have received help, not me. I have nothing to eat”.

Odmaa, the Mongolian 27-year-old, also undocumented, is no longer the household, and her husband has lost his work of gardening.

“There is no work. We do not come to feed us,” she said.

Usually, the couple sends the bulk of its revenues to the countries where their 5 year old son lives with his grandmother. Now, they can not even pay the rent.

“Everything is so expensive here, and we have nothing”.

A survey conducted on 550 people who came last week showed that more than half of them were undocumented, but that a third party had a resident permit and about 4 % had the swiss nationality.

It also turns out that 3.4% of respondents claimed to have been tested positive to the new coronavirus, says Mr. Wieland, a rate three times higher than that observed in Geneva.

According to him, the explanation lies in the fact that the people most affected are huddled together in cramped housing conditions.

“There is in Geneva a poverty that is a little hidden, under the radar screens”, he says.

“With the COVID […], all this becomes more visible”.

Le Soleil

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