Shaping fair cities

Alicante, a city of increasing solidarity

Alicante created the Social Emergency Municipal Office, addressing precarious situations during the pandemic crisis

The global health crisis caused by COVID-19 has had significant economic and social consequences. Authorities and governments of all countries have been forced to implement measures to alleviate the effects of this pandemic, which go beyond purely health-related matters. Spain has been one of the affected countries and its Government declared the State of Alarm nationwide on 14 March to prevent the spread of the virus. From that date, the territory went into quarantine and citizens' movements were limited through diverse regulations. 

During the months of lockdown, Spanish citizens have been forced, in many cases, to slow down their lives and stop working; and some areas of the country, like Madrid or Barcelona, have recorded very important peaks of infections and deaths. On the contrary, the province of Alicante has not been one of the most affected areas in the health field, although the socioeconomic consequences have been felt. 

Specifically, the City Council of Alicante created the Social Emergency Municipal Office (Oficina Municipal de Emergencia Social, OMES), which aims to address precarious situations during the crisis. This office was created with the objective of meeting the basic needs of all people who may be in need or in a particularly vulnerable situation, as in the case of elderly people, children or adults who could not leave their homes due to health problems and lived in conditions of fragility and solitude, as well as people who were homeless during the State of Alarm. 

The Department of Immigration, Cooperation and Volunteering, which was responsible for promoting the Shaping Fair Cities project in the city of Alicante, has been an important part of the Social Emergency Municipal Office, as one of its key tasks is to promote two of the Sustainable Development Goals: Sustainable cities and communities (SDG11) and Peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG16). This is the reason why, during these two months, its work has focused on dealing with emergency situations in its area of competence during the pandemic. 

During these months, the Immigration Department has received many queries and requests from the different associations with which it works, all of them regarding the crisis caused by COVID-19. One of the areas with greater demands has been that concerning the lack of food and other basic needs (gas, medicines, diapers, feminine hygiene products, etc.). These requests have been channelled through the Social Emergency Office. 

At the same time, there has been a significant increase in queries about immigration matters and consulates in these months, as well as queries from foreign tourists who had been left without accommodation and were unable to return to their country of origin. All these demands have been assessed and met by the Immigration Department through three services: the Pangea Office for Migrants Assistance (Oficina de Atención a Personas Migradas Pangea), the Lifelong Learning Programme (Programa de Formación Permanente) and the Programme for Social Cohesion in Schools (Programa de Cohesión Social en la Escuela). 

Additionally, the City Council of Alicante, through its Department of Modernisation, Innovation and New Technologies, enabled a virtual assistant in the municipal website (www.alicante.es) in order to inform about the coronavirus 24 hours a day. “Carina”, which is the name of the virtual assistant, holds conversations with the service users and informs them about everything related to the disease and about the measures necessary to prevent it and to protect themselves from it. What is coronavirus, what are its symptoms, what to do in case of infection, teleworking, rules on requirements arising from the government's alarm, are some of the topics of interest covered. 

In the same way, the Immigration Department kept the website constantly updated with relevant information in different languages. Through this channel, information was provided on solidarity initiatives driven by entities, immigration regulations and any news about the COVID-19 crisis. 

During these two months of quarantine, this Department has also produced exceptional Social Integration Reports. This document is necessary in order to prove social integration to get temporary residence and, therefore, it was the only way to regularise the situation of foreigners who were expecting to start working fundamentally in the areas of health, food and agriculture. 

Moreover, the Associations and Volunteering Area in the Immigration Department has participated in the creation and management of the JuntosAlicante Platform, an online application designed to connect people in need with volunteers eager to help. This neighbourhood solidarity platform has more than a thousand registered volunteers, and it handled numerous requests for help from citizens who found themselves in difficult situations due to COVID-19. 

From the beginning of the crisis, this Department identified many difficulties in the food distribution, especially from entities which did not have the same number of volunteers as usual because of the lockdown. For this reason, the 49 entities included in the Food Bank distribution were contacted and the collection and delivery of products was organised in different parts of the city. In addition, protective equipment and hygiene kits were provided to those entities. 

Difficult times bring out people's most caring side and that is what happened this time, as more than a hundred neighbours volunteered to collaborate on all these tasks and numerous donations were received from individuals who made masks or who were able to make deliveries with their private cars, among other things. 

Special mention should be made of the degree of collaboration demonstrated by various municipal departments of the City Council of Alicante, without which all of this could not have been done. Some of these are the Department of Education, the Department of Equality, the Mayor's Office, the Department of Project Coordination, Civil Protection and the Local Police. Also noteworthy is the willingness to intervene, especially from the Alicante Food Bank and from all the entities, associations and volunteers who were involved in helping those most in need. 

In short, Alicante is a city of increasing solidarity which has worked throughout the crisis in order to enhance compliance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals taking the approach initiated by the Shaping Fair Cities project, and which will continue working during the current year, not only addressing emergencies arising from COVID-19, but also implementing the 169 targets adopted by Europe to ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. 

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published on 2020/10/20 12:53:00 GMT+2 last modified 2020-10-21T16:24:02+02:00

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