BERLIN (AP) – Three times a week, Aliye Türkյlmaz goes to the markets of Nicoeln և busy shopping streets to distribute information leaflets about the coronavirus epidemic to the residents of the crowded immigrant district of the German capital.
The 48-year-old Turkish-speaking immigrant is part of a team of five street workers involved in explaining the dangers of COVID-19 to people who often do not reach the area with traditional waves where the number of infections has been highest. indicators: in the city:
“Especially the elderly immigrants do not understand German, some are illiterate, some are not yet aware of the health risks and regulations of the epidemic,” said Turkilmaz as he walked through the Turkish market along the Landwehr canal, where many had come. Take fresh vegetables, chicken and bread.
There are a number of factors that have made Neukoelln a viral hotspot in Berlin, where low incomes mean that residential areas are often cramped, public transport is often the only option, and jobs are usually in high-risk areas such as the food industry. : ,
But it was the lack of information informing residents that prompted the Berlin-based Chance BJS NGO to launch Turquilmaz’s “intercultural education team” or IKAT in September in coordination with district officials.
The hope is that they will be able to overcome the lack of communication, which is not only due to language barriers, but also a deep distrust of the German authorities with a sense of inadmissibility. ,
“If in normal times we could not create a sense of belonging together, if people exist next to each other or even against each other, then now it is impossible to create this sense of togetherness,” Erdogan said.
About 35% of Berlin’s 3.6 million inhabitants are immigrants, mostly from Poland, Turkey, the Arab world and the former Soviet Union. Nearly half of Nicoel is of foreign origin.
Currently, there are 4,828 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants in the district, while the average in the city as a whole is 3,575 people.
A study published by the Berlin State Health Authority in February found that the regions with the highest unemployment rates, the largest proportion of welfare recipients and the lowest household income were most affected. The incidence of COVID-19 also increased, coinciding with a family history of migration and the percentage of people with higher population densities, factors related to poverty.
“Migration is not the main reason for the higher risk of catching the virus, but it is additional,” said Nico Dragano, a professor of medical sociology at the University of Heinrich-Hein in Düsseldorf, who is studying the disproportionately strong impact. about the epidemic of vulnerable groups in society.
Lacking information at the beginning of the epidemic, many immigrant communities adhered to traditions such as large weddings and large family meals in their small homes, which contributed to outbreaks. This was said by Erdogan, the head of the Nicoel community.
“There were also 20 people among my friends who were infected from one family,” Erdogan said. “They were participating in the celebration, they did not take the challenges seriously. It came back to haunt them. “
More than 135,000 people in Berlin have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, although the estimated number of unreported cases has risen to around 3,000.
While Neukoelln was one of the city’s major viral hotspots last summer, its recent incidence of 75.5 new infections per 100,000 population per week equals the city’s current 75.1.
It is too early to say to what extent the initiatives of such a multilingual team of street workers have helped reduce the virus, but Martin Hickel, the mayor, said that anecdotal, unusual ways of communicating with various immigrant communities in Neukոlln are possible.
Hickel said many people in his area do not read German newspapers or watch German television stations, which report daily changes to the virus, including blockades, school closures and reopening.
Beyond the IKAT team, Neukoelln has tried to rectify this through other initiatives.
During the epidemic, city workers painted basic rules of conduct, such as the rules of masks, on the sidewalks in bold letters in different languages. They have also created short multilingual videos detailing the risks of COVID-19, which are presented by community leaders, including Erdogan, and can be easily shared via Facebook or messenger services.
“We try to spread the word through social media, through local social workers’ associations,” Hickel said, adding that local authorities are often one step ahead of state and federal officials because they are more aware of the facts.
Isabella Grajkowski, a 34-year-old member of IKAT with Polish roots, said people were generally open when she approached them on the street.
He attributes the success of IKAT’s work abroad to the fact that all members are immigrants themselves and can use that experience when talking to people. They also help translate for those who have in-depth medical questions to a doctor who frequently attends IKAT tours and offer antigen tests on site for those who are afraid of becoming infected.
“We all have different cultural backgrounds, we get along well with the people of Nicoel,” he said.
The most worrying topics for people are the reopening of schools, shops, restaurants, whether they are allowed to go abroad to visit relatives, when and how they will be vaccinated.
“The Vers are already receiving vaccination invitations explaining how to register online,” Turkilimaz said. “But everything is only in German. They do not understand it, they do not know what to do. It’s difficult. “
Frank Jord son participated in this report.
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