JDC Coronavirus Response Update
The coronavirus pandemic has created a public health crisis unprecedented in our lifetimes, leading to vast emergency humanitarian needs worldwide. As the global Jewish 9-1-1, JDC’s 106 years of expertise and experience responding to crises is more relevant than ever. In the former Soviet Union (FSU) and Israel, the crisis has created serious problems for vulnerable populations, especially the elderly. Below are a few highlights from JDC’s Coronavirus response efforts helping the elderly in the FSU and Israel.
Former Soviet Union: In the FSU approximately 80,000 elderly Jews rely on JDC for basic needs such as food and medicine. JDC's presence on the ground during the best of times is what enables us to act quickly and effectively in times of crisis.
Thousands of elderly Jews in the FSU rely on JDC support, for their very survival. As the coronavirus pandemic hit, their needs became even more acute. Many elderly are already socially isolated and face depression, anxiety, and physical health issues and social distancing requirements are making their situation even worse. It also makes it harder for us to care for them.
Nearly four months into the Coronavirus crisis, lifesaving services for the elderly, such as home care, food, and medicine, remain JDC’s top priorities in the region, with round-the-clock hotlines that enable professionals and volunteers to coordinate deliveries, assist with household issues, and offer psychological and emotional support. In addition, JDC is partnering with the Israel-based TechForGood organization to identify tech-based solutions to challenges in eldercare that have risen with the Coronavirus.
Homecare workers have been provided with protective gear, and to address restrictions on public transportation, we are providing private transportation where necessary to continue to deliver vital homecare assistance. JDC's Call Centers and new hotlines are activating staff and volunteers from their homes, to reach out to elderly clients and help alleviate loneliness and find out about serious need that would otherwise go unnoticed.
We view it as our responsibility to help these poor and elderly Jews live with the dignity and honor that they deserve. We estimate that we will need approximately $2,500,000 over the next 3-4 months to meet additional needs in the FSU.
In the aftermath of the Coronavirus outbreak, JDC began bolstering our regular lifesaving services according to arising needs.
Examples of these emergency services include:
Transportation to deliver vital aid
Due to limited public transportation as part of the quarantine measures, we will need to cover transportation expenses for some home care workers and other vital Hesed and JDC workers binging food and medicines to the client
Protective gear / Hygiene
Protective gear for workers (mostly homecare) is needed so they do not pose a risk to our clients. This based on our ability to purchase protective gear, as currently most regions are reporting on shortages and are actively looking for possible solutions and alternatives.
Emergency food and medicine for the elderly
We will need to provide more services for emergency needs, especially as our clients are at risk and their ability to shop outside is limited. We will need to provide fook packages and medicines to the door, instead of bank cards. This will include cooked meals that will need to be delivered to the elderly clients, which would have otherwise been cooked by their homecare worker or provided at the Hesed.
Materials assistance for children at risk
As many of the families we are helping are already at risk and parents are losing their jobs during this crisis, we see a rise in client needs. There is an increased need for SOS funds, to provide children with food, medicines, medical expenses, and other urgent needs.
Other emergency medical needs, such as X-rays, ambulance costs, and funerals. These services are limited and expensive in this region even during times of calm.
Support of JDC's essential work in the former Soviet Union will support the urgent needs of tens of thousands of people overseas in the face of the global pandemic.
Israel: The coronavirus outbreak has created unique and severe problems in Israel particularly impacting vulnerable populations, especially the elderly. While recently Israel has eased social distancing regulations and reopened many services, the impact of coronavirus restrictions is still affecting many of the people who JDC serves. JDC continues to address ongoing and emerging needs among the country’s most vulnerable populations.
In the first days of the pandemic, JDC provided emergency support services to over 40,000 homebound elderly. 23,000 activity kits were distributed to quarantined elderly across Israel. While these provided some degree of immediate relief, the elderly still face severe challenges. Severe isolation increases their risk of early mortality, mental deterioration, and illness. Their decreased mobility and fitness means that many elderly are more fragile than ever. According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, 45% of the elderly over age 65 currently depend on someone else to bring them food medicine. This is a loss of independence. Additionally, we estimate that 500,000 elderly lack the digital skills necessary for basic functioning in a post corona world. JDC is working on all of these challenges and more.
The elderly and people with disabilities remain homebound and face increased loneliness, decreased income, and compromised health. JDC has shifted the services of its eight multidisciplinary rehabilitation centers for older adults online, using digital technology to provide remote rehabilitation therapies and consultations such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, nutritional counseling, medical/nursing consults, and more. JDC is also utilizing technology to identify the elderly at risk, through a pilot app called Invisi. Care, which remotely tracks worrying signs of illness, depression, falls, and other physical and mental health crises. For people with disabilities, a Facebook-based Virtual Center for Independent Living provides over 2,000 members with information tailored to different types of disabilities, videos, podcasts, online support groups, fitness and culture courses, vocational training, and more.
In addition, JDC is working to help other vulnerable populations.
At this time JDC needs to raise approximately $550,000 to provide critical support for Israel's elderly. This support will focus on providing the elderly with skills to enable them to function in a world changed by the coronavirus and on developing new digital solutions to help the elderly. This is the work that we have been doing for years, helping people to stay safe, get back on their feet, and adapt to the changes around them. Because we are here for these people every day we can be here to support them in times of crisis.