Human Aid Now has been providing weekly food and other basic items to undocumented refugees in Amsterdam since September 2016. During the corona pandemic, the demand increased steeply. At the end of 2021, we had hoped that with the end of the Covid crisis in sight, those distributions would not be needed any more. Unfortunately, the labour market for our target population has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels and, due to the high inflation, people who had regained self-sufficiency were forced again to come and get a package.
In autumn 2023, we were still delivering 1.200 packages per week, aiding about 4.500 people, of whom nearly half are children. Between March 2020 and September 2023, we have delivered over a quarter million food packages, 1.5 million diapers, 100.000 periodic pads and much more!
75% of our beneficiaries are undocumented people who lost their informal jobs during the pandemic and have not managed to regain (sufficient) employment. The remaining 25% are people with papers, but with extremely complicated situations, which makes their access to the regular social services very complicated and/or impossible.
Thanks to our contacts with wholesales providers we are able to buy basic food staples and hygiene items in bulk at attractive prices. At the apex of the pandemic we bought weekly up to 7 tons of rice, 1 ton of pasta, 3.000 litres of milk, 2.300 litres of oil, 1.840 kg of flour, 1.267 kg of dried beans, 22.000 eggs, 4.500 tins of tomatoes and tomato purée, loads of other fresh and tinned vegetables, semolina, canned tuna and sardines, Maggi bouillon blocks, etc. We also bought 100.000 diapers per month!
Now the amounts are less, but we still deliver such basic necessities to a group of beneficiaries who are either undocumented without the means to regain self-sufficiency, or fall through the cracks of the system.
We deliver these basic food and hygiene products to distribution projects close to the communities they are assisting. Volunteers from the community create wholesome nutritious food packages and distribute them. We also assist these different distribution projects by advising on fundraising, coordination, project management, logistics, volunteers, and administration.
The food project is financed by Dutch charity Funds and the Municipality of Amsterdam. Hygiene items and diapers for the babies have been supplied through private donations. These needs are ongoing for the worst-off families.
Thanks to several generous donors we have been able to aid the children reached by the Food Project with more than just food and basic hygiene products. In the course of the year, we helped them with amongst others: sports clothing and shoes, underwear and socks, warm jackets and more.
For two consecutive years, we were able to distribute over 1.000 backpacks filled with everything school-going children need: a pencil case with pencils, pens, ruler, pencil sharpener, rubber, highlighters, etc, notebooks, folders and more. The small ones got a nice box of coloured crayons while we gave calculators and compasses to the older kids. This distribution was extremely appreciated by both children and parents.
Due to the Ukraine war, prices of gas and electricity went through the roof during the winter of 2022, prohibiting our beneficiaries to properly heat their housing. The problem was compounded by the fact that most of them live in poorly isolated dwellings. The motto of the Amsterdam Food Project is “No hunger in the city”.
Thanks to a large donation at the onset of the winter we launched an additional project “No Cold in the City”. We distributed nearly 15.000 energy-efficient items like thermal socks and underwear, warm slippers, warm water bottles, blankets, beanies, gloves, and sub-zero sleeping bags to our beneficiaries living in poorly or un-heated conditions. All those items were very welcome when the temperatures dipped below zero.
A hard life, frequently with precarious housing, hard physical work and poor nutrition often ages undocumented people prematurely. Thanks to the generosity of a private charity we have been able to start a fund for 55-plussers. This fund caters for individual situations, providing things like walking and hearing aids. It has also allowed us to make vitamin distributions at the onset of the winter. In addition, we have started walking clubs to promote healthier living habits and fight isolation. Our elderly beneficiaries meet for a walk, cook and eat a healthy meal together and they play some card games in the afternoon.
Last but not least, we were entrusted with an Emergency Fund that we can use at our discretion to help undocumented people who are either in an emergency humanitarian situation, or who need some help to structurally improve their lives. This Fund has contributed to ease the life of several hundreds of people, 70% women and children.
We assist people in their journey toward legalisation, by financing passports and other administrative costs; and by funding their journey for people who have a better chance in another European country.
We deliver para-medical items, from crutches and wheelchairs to high-calorie food for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
We provide transportation means, second hand bikes and public transportation credits, for children to go to school or adults to go to medical or legal appointments
We solve some dramatic humanitarian situations, like a 14-years old single mother whom we equipped with the basics she needed for her newborn.
We have been providing emergency help between March 2020 and the end of 2023. But emergency help that lasts for three and a half years is not about emergency anymore, it exposes structural needs that are badly addressed.
This is why in 2024, together with the partners forged during the pandemic, we will explore what we can do beyond food distribution to tackle the roots of the problems faced by our beneficiaries.
This will include projects: