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Helping rough sleepers to cope with Covid-19

Health Prevention

Around 15,000 people are sleeping rough on the streets of Togo’s capital, Lomé. HI has been running a project to help them cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Awareness flash mob in a market place.

Awareness flash mob in a market place. | © HI

The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the plight of vulnerable people, especially those living on the streets. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have deprived them of the support of the rest of the population; they are now more isolated, insecure and malnourished than ever.

Promoting shielding measures

HI teams have been conducting outreach work to limit the spread of the virus in Lomé and the city of Sanvee Condji. Between April 2021 and February 2022, the following actions were implemented:

  • As people sleeping rough often have no access to a water point, HI put public showers in place to help promote and facilitate hygiene measures. More than 80,000 showers were taken, with an average of 210 people per day benefiting from the service.
  • With the help of awareness-raising sessions, almost 16,000 rough sleepers were taught how to shield against the coronavirus.
  • A thousand information posters on shielding and vaccination were produced and distributed.
  • More than 25,000 facemasks and 15,000 containers of hydro-alcoholic gel were distributed during outreach activities. Hydro-alcoholic gel is in great demand among rough sleepers, as it replaces the need to wash their hands with water to which they have limited access.
  • More than 8,000 hygiene kits were distributed, containing hydro-alcoholic gel, face masks, toothpaste, a tooth brush, soap and a sponge, as well as sanitary pads for girls and women.
  • Around 100 peer educators were given training. They are now in a position to pass on good practices and raise the awareness of other people living on the streets.
  • Almost 1,000 people were vaccinated.

Providing medical and psychological support

Two health surveillance teams, each with a nurse, a psychologist and a midwife, conducted night rounds in Lomé. They provided medical and psychosocial care to over 15,000 people. Whenever possible, medical conditions, such as headaches, sores, rashes, malaria and sexually transmitted diseases, were treated directly on site. Thanks to these activities, more than 8,500 people accessed health care between April 2021 and February 2022.

As part of the outreach work organised by HI, more than 4,500 people were given psychosocial support, as there is a real need among people sleeping rough to talk about their past bad experiences and their day-to-day life on the street.

"We provide rough sleepers with psychological support because they are a sector of the population that feels vulnerable and neglected. When we offer them specialised services that are otherwise inaccessible to them, they feel seen. It is part of HI's mission to give hope to people who feel forgotten", explains Issa Afo, HI psychologist.

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