In January, AVSI Foundation, in partnership with the Red Cross and the City of Milan, will distribute 68 tons of food to 12,000 people (4,500 families) who are going through financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is part of the project “Building Hope: Emergency support for hospitals and vulnerable families in Italy affected by COVID-19”, implemented by AVSI with funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
"With this project, we are bringing to Italy AVSI's experience working in emergencies around the world. AVSI is accompanying the most vulnerable, those financially and psychologically exhausted by the crisis. In collaboration with the City of Milan and local partners, we have created a network to respond to the most urgent needs while working on restarting the Italian economy after COVID-19." explains Giampaolo Silvestri, Secretary General of AVSI Foundation.
"The pandemic will have long-lasting effects," says Luigi Maraghini, President of the Red Cross in Milan. "But the next few months will be the most difficult from a social and economic point of view. Only thanks to strong partnerships will we be able to find solutions and build a future without leaving anyone behind."
The food distribution is only one component of Building Hope. The project also provides educational support to families who face unemployment or loss of income and who struggle to give access to education for their children. AVSI is distributing tablets and internet bundles for access to virtual learning. In collaboration with the Portofranco Association of Milan, AVSI has already distributed 150 iPads to ensure that even the most vulnerable students can attend class.
"Receiving the iPad was very useful for everyone because we are four siblings in my family, and this period has not been financially easy," says Letizia Zaupa, 16 years old, who has received a tablet thanks to the project. "Now, aside from following the classes more easily, I am using the iPad to take notes, and it is more convenient. The iPad helps me manage my study time.”
The multi-sectoral project is also allowing for investments in telemedicine and at-home rehabilitation for patients with acute post-COVID conditions with the Sacco Hospital of Milan. In addition, the Civil Hospital in Brescia received improved diagnostic capacity for COVID testing, leading to a significant reduction in false-negative tests.
Alberto Tornielli Bellini, 54 years old, is one of the project’s beneficiaries. He tested positive for COVID-19 when the virus first hit Italy and was in a coma for two weeks. After staying in bed for 50 days, his muscles atrophied and he could barely walk.
"It was the worst time of my life. My battle against COVID didn't end when I left the hospital," remembers Alberto, who, thanks to "Building Hope," has been treated remotely. "Telemedicine allows me to get treatment and rehabilitation from home. My health is improving every day, from my feet, which I can move more every time, to my vital functions, which have progressed.”