Response of AFEW Kyrgyzstan to COVID-19

COVID-19 rapidly spreading around the world requires urgent and decisive actions. AFEW Kyrgyzstan quickly responded to the emerging threat and prepared the support measures, which can help the key populations in this challenging time. Natalia Shumskaya, director of AFEW Kyrgyzstan, told AFEW International about them.

Social bureau for women living with HIV

The social bureau for women living with HIV offering peer support services as well as consultations of psychologists and social workers continues its operation during the lockdown. Before the state of emergency was announced, most people living with HIV (PLWH) in the city received Antiretroviral therapy (ARVs) for up to three months. If people were not able to come and pick up their medications, the social worker brought them to their homes. However, PLWH still need ARVs, so every day a representative of our organization brings such medications to two or three addresses using an official vehicle of the AIDS centre.

Nutritional support

About one-third of PLWH in Kyrgyzstan live in poverty. People who used to earn money for their living with odd jobs are now left without any sources of income and have urgent needs in food products, hygiene items, diapers for their babies and mobile charge cards to stay connected. Every day, the psychologist from the AIDS Centre gives calls to women living with HIV and provides them with psychological support. If people need food, the psychologist gives them contact details of the Bishkek district headquarters for them to receive humanitarian aid. We have sent a request to the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan asking them to allocate food packages for 40 women living with HIV.

In community centres for women with substance abuse problems, there was also a need in masks, disinfectants and food packages, so we procured all the needed materials to comply with the infection control measures from our project budget.

Psychological support

Three psychologists of our organization continue providing psychological support over the phone and using WhatsApp. Mostly they are contacted by women with severe anxiety, panic attacks or those who faced domestic violence. Some women have relatives with mental health problems. Besides, we received phone calls from young people with drug abuse problems.

Young people help!

There is a volunteer headquarters launched in the youth centre together with the National Agency for Youth and Physical Culture. People working at the organization and other city residents make donations to a special account to procure food products for those in need. Our Champions for Life from the Dance4life programme signed up as volunteers and deliver the humanitarian aid.

For prisoners

We procured and provided to the National Law Enforcement Service two thousand masks, 850 kg of bleach, and 50 bottles of antiseptics for the prisoners.   Besides, we developed leaflets for prisoners and prisons staff. Soon brochures will be published and distributed among the prisons.

We are currently carrying out negotiations with different donors and I hope that in the nearest future we will be able to raise more funds to support the National Law Enforcement Service.   We are waiting for the response from the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) concerning our project proposal on carrying out training sessions for prisoners and non-medical personnel working in prisons on COVID-19 and on procuring soap and laundry detergent for prisoners.

Due to the physical contact being impossible, our peer consultant (PLWH) provides support to the prisoners living with HIV remotely, through phone calls.

For reference

As of today, there are 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one registered death in Kyrgyzstan.

Since March 25, the government declared the state of emergency. A curfew has been introduced, so people are not allowed to leave their homes after 8 p.m. In the daytime, there can be only three reasons to go outside: to a supermarket, pharmacy or to visit a doctor provided that the person has an itinerary sheet. Public transport and taxi services are closed.

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