From file: A woman working in a field | Photo: ANSA/OXFAM
From file: A woman working in a field | Photo: ANSA/OXFAM

The region of Puglia is working to improve the situation of migrant farmworkers facing the coronavirus pandemic. INTERSOS has teamed up with the local ASL health department in Foggia for screening at settlements in northern Puglia.

Collaboration has officially begun between the region of Puglia and the organisation INTERSOS to help migrant farmworkers in the Italian region, said INTERSOS in a statement. 

Last month, an agreement had been signed with the regional agency AReSS, the local ASL health department in Foggia, the Foggia prefecture, and the Labour Ministry. This agreement allows INTERSOS workers who have already been working for the past two years at migrant settlements in northern Puglia to begin supporting the regional health system in facing the COVID-19 emergency among farmworkers who live in the Foggia area. 

The INTERSOS team is made up of three doctors, including programme director Alessandro Verona; four cultural mediators; and one protection officer. The team works six days a week in two mobile units travelling between seven migrant settlements where 2,050 people live to provide periodic screening and information on prevention.

'Priority is to reallocate these people' 

"The priority in this phase is to reallocate these people to small housing units, so that they can put prevention measures into place," said Alessandro Verona. "In the meantime, drinking water needs to be brought to the settlements and health services have to be increased," he said. 

The region of Puglia is already working on this, as well as on waste collection, which started a few days ago. Other Italian regions, however, aren't doing the same. Therefore, INTERSOS and the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) undertook an initiative to send all regional governors a letter, signed by 17 other associations and NGOs. 

NGOs' requests 

The letter, which was sent at the end of March, calls for urgently transferring all people who live in informal settlements, both rural and urban, to suitable reception facilities to guarantee respect for the health and hygiene measures in the COVID-19 emergency decrees. 

"In the settlements and occupied buildings, people are living in haphazard conditions and often without access to water and health services," the organisations said. "In these conditions it is impossible to put into place the measures necessary for prevention of the epidemic, starting with hand washing," they said. "In addition, in the event of infection, containment measures would be difficult". 

While awaiting a hypothetical transfer, the NGOs are calling on the regions to provide drinking water and hygiene services, to distribute hygiene kits (disinfectants, tissues, cleansers), to periodically collect waste, to provide information on prevention together with cultural mediators, and to provide housing for eventual cases of voluntary isolation or quarantine.

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