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"building hope"

emergency support for hospitals and vulnerable families affected by covid 19


july-december 2020


With funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), AVSI Foundation is implementing the project “Building Hope,” in the region of Lombardy, Italy.

AVSI is partnering with the Sacco Hospital in Milan and Spedali Civili, a hospital in Brescia, for health activities and the Municipality of Milan and the Portofranco Association for the economic and education component. 


The project’s goal is to mitigate the health and the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 through a multi-sector initiative that reaches the most at-risk and marginalized individuals and families in Italy.


Italy is living a period of unprecedented crisis and uncertainty. As the novel coronavirus has continued to spread, it has set off a devastating chain of events beginning with the health emergency and leading to increasing economic inequality.

Medical care structures are essential to the response in Lombardy, at the heart of Italy’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. The data show that the daily number of new cases is slowing down, and the number of discharged cases is increasing. Despite the continuous need for equipment for inpatient care, the immediate pressure on the hospitals is decreasing, and the emerging challenge is to provide necessary follow-up care for patients who have been discharged.  

The COVID-19 outbreak and mitigation measures taken by the government have deeply affected small businesses due to a dramatic decrease in sales in the tourism, food, transportation, and manufacturing sectors. It is challenging for small businesses to survive in such circumstances and for workers to keep their jobs. Some SMEs have already been forced to declare bankruptcy.

The “new poor,” those who have always been above the poverty line and therefore are excluded from existing welfare measures, are facing immediate, dramatic losses due to unemployment, and now urgently need support to overcome the current crisis.  

The lockdown measures have also exacerbated the digital divide already existing in Italy. During Summer holidays, students across Italy had to rely on personal computers and an internet connection to attend Summer classes and do their homework at home to not fall behind with their schooling. 

Affected families have a host of other needs and pressures at the same time: food, bills to pay, trauma and the psychological impact of isolation, and the need for new skills or retraining to reenter the labor market. A comprehensive response is only possible if a range of actors, public and private, work together in a concerted and coordinated manner. 


AVSI Foundation will manage and carry out a short-term project to provide direct, immediate support to targeted health needs, and to complement and extend the reach of economic and social support to highly vulnerable families affected by COVID-19. This immediate response will be carried out by putting into place strong partnerships, effective referral, and coordination networks, and, eventually, the implementation of longer-term activities as needs and opportunities become more evident.  

This project will have two components: 

  • Health: to support two hospitals with the necessary equipment and supplies to adequately care for COVID-19 patients and others.
  • Economic and Educational Component: to provide relief to families facing the loss of income and lack of access to education as a result of COVID-19.

AVSI will continue to dialogue and coordinate with a wide range of civil society and faith-based organizations to integrate with other efforts. It is expected that this project will be a starting point for a continued effort to put into motion service delivery channels and networks of support that relieve suffering and build bonds among people and communities.


AVSI Foundation and partners will reach an estimated 2,000 families (8,000 people), with an indirect and lasting impact greatly exceeding these numbers of direct beneficiaries.