The coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in the number of people in need in Tuzla Canton, which is why the Imaret Soup Kitchen receives requests for new users every day. The Imaret Soup Kitchen in Tuzla is an integral part of Merhamet and is the largest institution of its kind in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The local chefs prepare approximately 2,400 meals a day for the users, which are distributed to 17 locations in Tuzla, Kalesija, Gračanica and Lukavac.
The number of requests for help is significantly higher compared to previous periods, especially for home delivery of food. In parallel with the increase in requests, there is a decrease in donations, but they still manage to respond to all current needs.
“For almost 200 elderly and sick people, food is delivered to their home address every day. With this service we have covered a large area and several neighborhoods. Food is also delivered to the Mihatovići refugee, displaced persons and the socially vulnerable population settlement. For all our users who moved from Mihatovići to social apartments in Miladije, who meet the conditions and have a need for a meal every day, we deliver meals to our checkpoint in Kreka”, says for Klix.ba Mensura Husanović, director of the Regional Board of Merhamet Tuzla.
Significant increase in the number of users
The deteriorating epidemiological situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic has brought economic difficulties for a large number of citizens. Because of that, Imaret has a significant increase in the number of new requests for meals in the Soup Kitchen, as well as more individual arrivals of citizens seeking meals and help with food, i.e. humanitarian meal packages.
“The biggest number of requests and calls is for home delivery service because more and more people are in serious health condition, without relatives and others who can take care of them, and probably the elderly population is more afraid of infection and go out less,” said Husanović.
When distributing food, all prescribed measures are observed in order to protect the health of staff and users, and in order to reduce contact, the time of delivery at checkpoints has been extended.
Among the users of the Soup Kitchen in Tuzla is Hidajeta Osmanović, who has been coming for a meal at noon every day for several years. She takes a meal for herself and her son who is disabled.
“This soup kitchen means everything to me because this is the only way to feed myself and my son. Every day when I come for food, I am greeted by a warm and fresh meal. The employees are very kind. This is a great help for all those who are not able to afford a meal every day. My son and I have absolutely no income, and I go through life as I can,” says Osmanović.
Significantly reduced donor support
The economic consequences of the pandemic have also led to a significant reduction in the support of all donors to the Imaret Soup Kitchen, especially companies and individuals who, as Husanović states, probably have a lack of income due to the crisis.
“Regarding the support from the budget, it should be noted that the budget funds of the Government of Tuzla Canton, the City of Tuzla and the municipalities where we have checkpoints, Kalesija, Gračanica and Lukavac, cover about 30% of the total operating costs of the Soup Kitchen. We emphasize that the City of Tuzla provided additional funds for overcoming the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which enabled us to increase the number of food deliveries and humanitarian meal packages that we distributed in the field during the pandemic, and other municipalities helped as well,” says Husanović.
Even in times of crisis, Merhamet did not with their special activities, such as the traditional humanitarian action under the motto “Students help the Soup Kitchen”, which is currently underway, and is being implemented with primary and secondary schools in Tuzla Canton.