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  • In Lisbon, AKF is working with government and volunteer translators to ensure that migrants residing there can access key COVID-19 health messages.
    AKF Portugal
Translating coronavirus information for migrant communities in Lisbon

Because many migrants in Lisbon do not speak Portuguese, they cannot gain access to key COVID-19 health messages. The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in Portugal has been working with the government and volunteer translators to ensure that they do. AKF’s Sandra Almeida discusses the work being done by AKF and volunteers.

Briefly, what is the current situation in Lisbon as it relates to COVID-19? Who benefits from this work? Are they vulnerable? How?

Portugal has not been as badly hit by COVID-19 as its neighbour Spain but it is vulnerable. It has more citizens aged over 80 than anywhere in the EU except Italy and Greece, and a health service that is poorly equipped and underfunded. It also has the lowest number of critical care beds per 100,000 people in the EU.

Lisbon is home to a large number of migrant Asian communities from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and other countries, who often live in cramped conditions in the multicultural centre of the city. It is not unusual for eight people to share a room in an apartment with only one bathroom. As such, these groups are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19, and this vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that there are very few COVID-19 related health messages in languages other than Portuguese.

Tell us about this project: Who is involved and what are they doing? What is AKF’s role?

To support these vulnerable migrant communities, many of whom cannot read Portuguese, the Lisbon Central Cluster of Health Centres (ACES Lisboa Central) requested AKF Portugal to help translate the official “evaluation checklist of habitability and feasibility criteria for home isolation” in order to assess the need for quarantine internment.

AKF in Portugal does not have a health portfolio but works in collaboration with the public health system and migrant communities to ensure that migrants can contribute to, participate in, and benefit from the healthcare system.

We immediately started by translating these documents into English and, after having them validated by health professionals, engaged our network of migrant representatives to translate them into other languages. Soon we had several volunteers to support this endeavour, and literally overnight, the leaflet was translated into Bengali, Hindi, Nepali and Urdu. It was amazing to see this response. The following day these resources started to circulate among health centres and are now being used by health professionals.

Next AKF Portugal were requested by ACES Lisboa Central to translate three additional documents: “10 tips to follow for isolation at home”, “Isolation measures recommended for people sharing the same household with a suspected or infected Covid-19 person”, and “Procedures to avoid spreading the virus”. 


Health documents translated into different languages by volunteers.

English versions were produced by AKF. The Bengali, Nepali and Hindi versions soon followed, after being translated by AKF’s volunteer network. Audio files of the “10 tips to follow” were then produced by the volunteers with support from AKF and uploaded to YouTube to make sure the information could reach as many people as possible.

What does the project seek to achieve?

Overall, this project aims to identify the gaps in messages on COVID-19 and then to work with public health services and migrant communities to adapt materials to address those gaps. Disseminating key messages to and with vulnerable communities is one part of AKF’s response to slow and stop transmission of COVID-19 and minimise its impact on communities in Portugal.