We are only as safe as the most vulnerable among us
Nicosia Turkish Municipality has placed this motto at the centre of its policies from the first day our island became acquainted with the coronavirus. We quickly convened a meeting with experts from the health sector and became the first public body in the country to take precautionary measures against the virus.
While maximising efforts to secure public health (such as routine disinfection of public spaces, strict inspection of open businesses for compliance with anti-coronavirus regulations, and awareness campaigns in Turkish and English), we also prepared for the imminent danger of poverty and hunger in our community. Nicosia is home to a large population of international students and immigrant workers, most of whom lack socio-economic security and depend solely on daily wages. Widespread lockdown measures, which were soon implemented by the central government, would close down all non-essential sectors and deprive most of these people from their only means of survival.
Anticipating these developments, we mobilised all our resources, including sponsorships from the private sector and individual citizens, to deliver food packages for everyone in need within our borders. So far, we have delivered close to 7,000 food packages, covering about 10% of our population. We are operating hotlines for food requests, as well as accepting lists of names and addresses from community leaders representing different sub-groups living in our municipality. We are serving everyone in need regardless of nationality, citizenship or immigration/residency status. The capacity of our Kitchen of Sharing has also been expanded to provide daily meals to as many individuals as possible. The capacity of our Elderly Support Unit has similarly been enhanced to provide routine health checks to our elderly population.
Recognising that lockdown and curfew measures would likely exacerbate risks for domestic violence survivors who are stuck at home with their abusers, we have included our support and protection services among the most essential services that must continue unabated. NTM operates the only domestic violence shelter in the country and is the founding member of the statewide Domestic Violence Response Mechanism. We have stepped up our awareness campaigns on domestic violence and available services, using social media and traditional TV extensively, as well as delivering brochures enclosed in our food packages. We continue to closely monitor the responses of other first responders, intervening when necessary through the DV Response Mechanism.
We strongly believe that we all will be only as safe as the most vulnerable among us, whether the threat comes from a virus, from hunger, or from violence. The level of collaboration and solidarity we have seen in our community since the start of this crisis shows that our people are responsive to this message. This crisis stands as a litmus test for all units of public administration everywhere and for humanity as a whole. We either commit to work for social justice and peaceful coexistence, with each other and with the planet, or we perish altogether.