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Algeria
Civil Society Thrives during Pandemic

Net3awno (Let’s help each other!) is a collaborative platform which aims to link organizations, solidarity groups, and individuals in Algeria that are committed to charitable causes with potential donors. | ©Net3awno
Net3awno (Let’s help each other!) is a collaborative platform which aims to link organizations, solidarity groups, and individuals in Algeria that are committed to charitable causes with potential donors. | ©Net3awno | ©Net3awno

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented situation of lockdown, social isolation, and economic decline in most countries around the world that states and citizens struggle to contend with. In Algeria, many people have lost their employment and can’t make ends meet. Civil society steps up where authorities fail to help.

By Nourredine Bessadi

Since the very beginning, Algeria has been among the countries in Africa most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The authorities began to implement containment measures in early March. These have included the closure of schools, universities, restaurants, and shops; the cancellation of public and private events; and the shutdown of public transport and flight services. A lockdown of affected areas has been ordered and a curfew put in place in several cities, including the capital city, Algiers.

In fact, the country is suffering not only from one but two shocks: the spread of COVID-19 and the sharp decline in oil prices. The Government is trying to protect salaries in the public sector and healthcare spending. Many efforts are also being made to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Given the gravity of the health crisis, the resilience and capacity of Algerian civil society, as well, are put to the test. Citizen initiatives have quickly seen the light of day in the different regions of Algeria in order to make up for the authorities’ shortcomings and rush to the aid of the most vulnerable in society. An extraordinary surge of solidarity has mobilised numerous associations, private economic actors, informal networks of young people, and individual citizens.


Solidarity on the Ground…

In Tizi Ouzou, in the Kabylie region, the SOS Kabylie initiative, in partnership with the Jeunesse Sportive de Kabylie (JSK), is organising a fundraising campaign and food collection in support of hospitals and families in need. Significant quantities of food are transported to the various municipalities in the region and distributed by local elected officials and village committees to avoid the displacement of citizens during this pandemic.

An initiative called Solidarité Populaire, launched by the organisation Cœur sur la main, brings food to families in the regions most impacted by the pandemic, including Blida. “This initiative aims to provide a weekly food basket to families who usually live on the wages of day labour and have found themselves completely deprived during the pandemic. Milk and diapers for children are also available as needed,” says Fares Kader Affak, the president of the organisation. It should be noted that, in Algeria, a large part of the workforce is employed in the informal sector. This makes the situation very difficult for hundreds of thousands of families as they are forced to comply with containment measures. “640 families have already been assisted through this initiative: 440 families in Algiers and 200 in Blida. 1,860 food baskets have been distributed in Algiers alone," Fares Kader Affak adds.
  • An initiative called Solidarité Populaire, launched by the organisation Cœur sur la main, brings food to families in the regions most impacted by the pandemic, including Blida. ©Cœur sur la main
    An initiative called Solidarité Populaire, launched by the organisation Cœur sur la main, brings food to families in the regions most impacted by the pandemic, including Blida.
  • An initiative called Solidarité Populaire, launched by the organisation Cœur sur la main, brings food to families in the regions most impacted by the pandemic, including Blida. ©Cœur sur la main
    An initiative called Solidarité Populaire, launched by the organisation Cœur sur la main, brings food to families in the regions most impacted by the pandemic, including Blida.
  • An initiative called Solidarité Populaire, launched by the organisation Cœur sur la main, brings food to families in the regions most impacted by the pandemic, including Blida. ©Cœur sur la main
    An initiative called Solidarité Populaire, launched by the organisation Cœur sur la main, brings food to families in the regions most impacted by the pandemic, including Blida.


 

… and Online

There are several noteworthy initiatives in the digital space as well. Net3awno (Let’s help each other!) is a collaborative platform which aims to link organizations, solidarity groups, and individuals in Algeria that are committed to charitable causes with potential donors. It seeks to encourage engagement on local levels and to respond to the specific needs of different population groups. Its operating principle is simple – just register, create a profile (as a person or organization), and choose one of two options: I want to help, or I need help. If you need help, you simply fill out a very basic “project sheet” and describe, in as much detail as possible, your need for assistance. If you want to help, check out the different existing projects the platform promotes and donate food, for instance.

Nassim Balla, one of the founders of the platform, says that “Net3awno was set up by a group of volunteers from Djelfa, Oran, Mostaganem, Algiers, and Paris. It is sustained and supported by a network of solidarity groups who assist people in need. This network of independent organisations, collectives, and individuals refers to itself as the Net3awno DZ Network.”
 
Interface of Net3awno (Let’s help each other!), a collaborative platform which aims to link organizations, solidarity groups, and individuals in Algeria that are committed to charitable causes with potential donors. Interface of Net3awno (Let’s help each other!), a collaborative platform which aims to link organizations, solidarity groups, and individuals in Algeria that are committed to charitable causes with potential donors. | ©Net3awno


“There is a very high demand. The platform receives constant requests and the phone does not stop ringing. But the working principle is that of anonymity of both donors and recipients,” Nassim adds.

The surge of solidarity goes beyond the country’s borders. The Algerian diaspora is also mobilising. Money collections are launched, especially in France, to allow the purchase of equipment for Algerian medical staff: masks, protective glasses, and coats. Among these initiatives is Masks for Algeria, which will enable the purchase of a large quantity of masks.
 

Every Little Helps

In addition to all initiatives mentioned above, individuals from various backgrounds are getting involved within their means. People make their apartments or cars available to healthcare staff; hoteliers place their establishments at the disposal of public health services; young people start making masks and distribute them free of charge; business owners provide ambulances to hospitals; people prepare free meals for healthcare workers; volunteers mobilise for the benefit of the most disadvantaged; and retired doctors return to service. And if all that is not enough, contributions do also come from detainees at Tizi Ouzou prison, who make medical bibs.

Despite the very tense political, economic, and social situation, Algerian civil society is demonstrating its liveliness and its capacity to adapt and cope with a major crisis. No doubt that this mobilisation will allow the country to come out on the other side with the least possible damage.

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