Covid-19 – France: Helping the most disadvantaged in the face of crisis

Published on Thursday 23 April 2020

SOLIDARITY Faced with the growing scale of the COVID-19 epidemic, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL decided to open a mission in Île-de-France to assist the vulnerable populations, deprived of a safe access to drinking water and basic hygiene products, in order to enable them to apply the essential hygiene measures.

One of the fundamental hygiene measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 is regular hand washing. In France, however, this simple measure is far from being obvious to the poorest populations, such as the homeless or families living in slums. They often have to walk more than a kilometer to find a water supply and have very limited access to healthcare facilities and hygiene products. In March 2020, the implementation of a national lockdown plunged thousands of people into desperate situations.

In response to this emergency, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL decided at the beginning of April to open a mission in Île-de-France in favor of these vulnerable populations, particularly those weakened by the crisis, in order to help them in gaining access to drinking water and hygiene products.



Our teams have, for several weeks now, been working in the Greater Paris region, in cooperation with the French NGO Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde), with 250 families in several slums in Saint-Denis, Drancy, Aubervilliers and Stains, where access to water and sanitation is almost non-existent and where, because the inhabitants live in such close proximity to each other, there is a real fear that the virus will spread rapidly.

After assessing the extent of people’s needs, our teams have been distributing soaps, hygiene kits and baby kits to families who need them. Distributions are being carried out in compliance with measures of social distancing and allowing the dissemination of key messages of awareness. Temporary accesses to water have also been installed in several slums so that residents can live in dignified conditions and effectively protect themselves against COVID-19.

During their mission in Île-de-France, our teams also distributed hygiene kits in several social hotels in collaboration with the Samusocial.



« Our teams and technicians are used to working in humanitarian contexts, in contexts of high demographic concentration, particularly in camps abroad. Yet, we couldn’t just sit back and do nothing, says Thierry Benlahsen, Director of Operations. » Prevention, hygiene awareness and hand washing in the fight against epidemics spreading are all part of the humanitarian mandate of SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL. « If we can bring our expertise in the field of access to water and hygiene to help the most vulnerable populations hit by the crisis, our responsibility is to intervene », stresses Baptiste Lecuyot, Water, Hygiene and Sanitation coordinator and member of our emergency response team.

Since his foundation in 1980, it’s the second time that SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL opens a mission in France. In 2015, our teams were then deployed to migrants in great difficulty in Calais.