Would you like to know more about the Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation department in Caritas Czech Republic? We launched a series of interviews with our colleagues who will tell you more about our work across the world. This time we interviewed Ekaterine Meskhrikadze, Deputy Head of Mission at our office in Georgia.
Recently, we interviewed Ekaterine to find out more about the results of Caritas Czech Republic’s work in Georgia, lessons learned from the pandemic and future plans.
You have been working for Caritas Czech Republic since its mission's establishment in Georgia. What do you consider the most significant achievement of your team so far?
Caritas Czech Republic managed to take an important niche in a very competitive environment in Georgia. By all means, this was primarily achieved by recruiting highly qualified team members and hard work. Since the official registration of the field office in 2015, we slowly developed our scope in various sectors and directions. Having a solid experience in healthcare and social protection since 2010, Caritas Czech Republic started interventions in rural development and environmental protection sectors. Currently, we are working in four directions, which is quite challenging.
In healthcare and social protection, Caritas Czech Republic’s interventions are targeted at the institutional level, supporting the Government of Georgia to implement systemic changes, however, in rural development and environmental protection, we mostly intervene at the grassroots levels.
We could talk about the number of achievements, but probably the COVID-19 response is among the most significant ones, by intervening at the state level and supporting responsible authorities in the pandemic response mechanism. However, it is worthy of mentioning our contribution to primary healthcare, oncology, and social protection, especially those efforts for the provision of quality and affordable services for people with autism spectrum disorder and children with severe health problems.
You have just mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic, the period when your rapidly tailored your activities in support of the Government of Georgia with various projects. What is the most valuable what you have learnt from that period and how has it changed you, as a team?
The pandemic showed that there is always a way out of any situation which gave us a possibility to be involved in the COVID-19 response at the state level. We identified the needs of the country and quickly adapted our projects to the existing situation. The medical training sessions in the management of COVID-19 cases by primary healthcare were planned and implemented for rural doctors around the country. Medical facilities were supplied with personal protective equipment, COVID Laboratory information system was developed for tracking and recording new cases of infection. It means that we as a team found ourselves even more busy and involved than in regular times. We are proud and glad for being useful by contributing to the COVID response, managed by the Government of Georgia.
How do you see Caritas's Czech Republic's role in supporting Georgia's healthcare and social protection systems and what do you see as the most valuable results of your work?
I believe that Caritas Czech Republic significantly contributes to the reform process of the health care system in Georgia, which is ensured by the financial assistance and contribution of the Czech Development Agency. Specifically, we assist the Ministry of Health of Georgia in improving the quality of primary healthcare services through updated clinical protocols, respective training sessions, supportive supervision, and expert consultations, as well as digitization of medical records and the transition to electronic case management. After all, quality assessment and improvement measurement are impossible without electronic information systems.
It`s worth noting the role of Caritas Czech Republic in cancer prevention activities. The growing trend of morbidity and mortality caused by non-communicable diseases, including various types of cancer is a great socio-economic burden for the country. This is a serious challenge for public health both in Georgia and worldwide. Prevention and effective management of such diseases are one of the main objectives of the country and of our organization.
As for our involvement in social protection, our intervention in this sector is mainly addressed in the improvement of the rights of persons with disabilities, which means promoting the development of social and health services, conducting legislative initiatives and educational activities about the rights of PwDs and other related issues for professionals and the general public. Development and support of autism services in Georgia is one of the priorities of our organization, where we have contributed to the systematic changes in the sector thanks to the collaboration with different stakeholders.
Currently, we are implementing a project related to the deinstitutionalization of large-scale boarding houses for PwDs, project aims at the development of social services, as well as initiation of changes at the policy level, development of a corresponding strategy, and the action plan.
In recent years, your efforts much affected people's lives not only at the grassroots but made changes on a systemic level. What were the main achievements and what are the gaps you would like to address with your future work?
Rural development projects implemented by Caritas Czech Republic aim at developing mountainous regions of Georgia, through promoting specific sectors of agriculture, supporting tourism development as well as alternative income opportunities for the local population to make their livelihood more stable. Our projects consider a different scheme of support for locals, and SMEs via capacity building, grants, and awareness raising, including the introduction of effective management of natural resources. Our projects cover Tusheti, Pshav-Khevsureti, Khulo Municipality, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti Region. Still, taking into consideration the challenges a lot needs to be done to support the high mountainous regions of Georgia. Small and medium businesses need further intervention, both financially and in terms of developing their capacities.
In terms of environmental protection, our expertise at the current stage is mainly concentrated on waste management. Despite many positive steps taken in recent years, existing challenges need to be adequately addressed to achieve the proper waste management standards at the national level. As a response to the needs, we are tailoring our interventions to promote and introduce sustainable waste management practices through capacity building and developing waste management infrastructure, including providing consultancy services as well as technical equipment such as garbage trucks, special vehicles for collecting separated waste, waste bins, etc., working to increase the role of environmental education, including the introduction of the principles that are important for promoting reuse, prevention and recycling of waste and improving existing waste collection, transportation and disposal services.
Caritas Czech Republic has been partnering with state institutions in Georgia and cooperating with international donor organizations that financially supported our organization's initiatives. How do you see the ongoing partnerships with mentioned institutions and the way for deepening them?
We highly value these partnerships which resulted in successful projects and achievements, thus allowing us to further contribute to the country's development. Hopefully, the list of partners and donors is extensive – CzDA, UNICEF, UNFPA, SlovakAid, UNDP, EU, Lithuanian Embassy, and partners MoLSHA, NCDC, Tbilisi Medical University, GASW, Tbilisi State University, PMCG, IliaUni Child Development Institute, CRRC, Cancer Prevention Center, etc.
Caritas Czech Republic actively cooperates with state institutions and agencies, municipalities, universities, international and local NGOs, service providers, etc. We are always open to new cooperation, especially with the local institutions or civil society organizations.
What are your future plans?
Expanding the area of expertise, especially in the direction of environmental protection. Also working in the direction of new sectors development, introducing new topics and further diversifying our interventions to contribute to fulfilling the commitments made by the country`s strategies and Association Agreement. In general, facilitate the introduction of European values and services.
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