Citizen Defense Movement
This organisation submitted a number of requests to the authorities for practical support for families and small traders, such as the "tax year" request and the suspension of electricity bills.
In my country, Italy, which has been very hard hit by COVID-19, it has been first and foremost voluntary organisations that have helped families and individuals in difficulty because of the lockdown and the halting of economic activities. These include the association that I led for more than 18 years, the Movimento difesa del cittadino (consumer rights organisation), of which I am currently general coordinator.
First, we submitted to the authorities a number of requests for practical help for families and small traders, calling for a "no tax year", the suspension of bills, and reduced energy costs. We informed and assisted travellers in their requests for reimbursement to airlines and tour operators for cancelled travel. We asked the Bank of Italy and the ECB to sanitise cash in circulation in the "red zones", and called on shops and citizens to make more use of electronic means of payment. We urged employers to maintain meal vouchers for people working from home.
The entire network across the country has been involved and committed to making a contribution in terms of proposals, impetus and action.
On the preventative front, through our social media, we have strongly supported the #iorestoacasa campaign ("I'm staying at home") and disseminated constantly updated information on the practices recommended by the health authorities.
We are particularly proud of our solidarity campaign Scontrino sospeso (suspended receipt), which originated in the Sicilian branches of our Movimento and has been rolled out throughout the country. This scheme helps the families finding it hardest to make ends meet from day to day, as they struggle to even find the money for food shopping. Essentially, families who were unable to buy food for their children, or older people living alone, despite the huge efforts of Caritas and the municipal structures. We reached agreements with supermarket chains, which have donated basic food packages, supplemented by donations from customers who were asked to contribute.
In the more strictly consumer field, we have submitted complaints to the authorities on price speculation in the areas of agri-food and protective equipment such as masks and sanitiser gel. In addition, we have sought to inform the public about scams regarding supposed "anti-COVID medication" being sold online at very high prices.
In short, through huge efforts of solidarity, we have sought to give tangible effect to the slogan of hope Andrà tutto bene (everything will be alright), which has rung out throughout Italy, from hospitals to schools, from factories to shops and to the balconies of buildings.