This paper has been elaborated in the framework of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum #PrepareEaP4Health campaign and aims to illustrate the context in which civil society is addressing the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 public health crisis. It is based on the author’s desk research, and collective input from EaP CSF member organisations, provided through an online consultation conducted between 25 March and 3 April 2020. A total of 84 responses from all six EaP countries and EU member states took part in the survey: 25 from Armenia, 13 from Azerbaijan, 5 from Belarus, 10 from Georgia, 6 from Moldova, 17 from Ukraine, and 8 from EU member states. The survey was designed to identify the major needs and concerns of civil society.
- The EU should continue working with EaP governments, civil society and business to address the major vulnerabilities emphasised by the current crisis, and to ensure social security and the protection of jobs, access to quality health services, a resilient public health system capable of managing crises, an education system that ensures access to (online) education for all, and food security.
- The identified inequalities in access to healthcare, including testing, should be addressed by focusing on strengthening health services and capacities at the local and regional level within the planning of the next deliverables for the EaP policy beyond 2020 and within the programming of the EU’s bilateral support.
- CSOs advocating on key issues in the area of public health and on behalf of health professionals in order to increase their level of protection and recognition should be also strengthened via targeted financial support, alongside CSOs that are providing training and education on infection prevention and control measures to health practitioners.
- The curricula of medical schools should thus be reviewed according to the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Support to CSOs providing on-line consultations and psychological assistance to health professionals in the short- and medium-term should also be enhanced, while the long-term impact of healthcare workers’ exposure on the frontlines requires attention and inclusion within the planning of future funding and activities aimed at assisting health professionals.
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