News on COVID-19 from the region

DPNSEE publishes here news from our member organisations and countries of South East Europe related to outbreak of the corona virus COVID-19 in the region.

1 July

Montenegrin civil society organisations and DPNSEE members Cazas and Juventas warned that “The coronavirus epidemic should not distract from the need for effective HIV harm reduction and prevention programs, as quality and sustainable prevention programs yield excellent results in controlling the HIV epidemic among vulnerable populations”. More in the article (in Montenegrin) following this link>>>.

22 June

Philanthropy, supported by the Government of Switzerland, continued providing humanitarian assistance to beneficiaries exposed to higher risk of COVID-19 infection. COVID-19, lasting longer than three months in Serbia, additionally threatened material and health well-being of families exposed to poverty. In collaboration with the Centres for Social Work, village councils and associations of pensioners, Philanthropy organised distribution of food, personal hygiene items and sanitation material for 950 families in Kragujevac, Kraljevo and Belgrade. Assistance was provided to older persons living in rural areas, persons living with chronic diseases, persons at risk of homelessness and persons living with HIV/AIDS.

19 June

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe coordinates activities of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign in South East Europe around the Global Day of Action 26 June – which is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The list of activities in the campaign are in the news you can find here>>>.

10 June

The Coalition prEUgovor presented today their Report on Progress of Serbia under chapters 23 and 24 of the European Union accession negotiations – May 2020. The report indicates, among others, that “Restricted movement and slowed-down work of institutions affected especially vulnerable groups“. Read more in our news here>>>.

8 June

DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević spoke this morning at TV Pink about involvement of South East Europe in drug related criminal worldwide. That included actual information about drug market during coronavirus outbreak.
(video in Serbian)

4 June

In scope of the Support. Don’t Punish global advocacy campaign calling for better drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights, DPNSEE launched a regional campaign using social media to spread messages around. We prepared a set of up to 20 messages with combination of quotes from Kofi Annan‘s speeches and appropriate photographs, ready for use in Facebook, Tweeter and Instagram. They will be posted throughout June 2020, most frequently around 26 June, the Global Day of Action of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign and the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

3 June

Denis Dedajić, the DPNSEE Vice-President and President of the member organisation Margina was one of the speakers at the webinar on “Outreach Work during the Covid-19 crisis” organised by Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network.

30 May

The Union of people living with HIV in Serbia held the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on Saturday 30 May to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. Organisation Philanthropy prepared packages with food and hygienic materials for PLHIV in hard living conditions hit by COVID-19. Read more at the news on our website here>>>.

27 May

SEE was mentioned quite a few times at the Roundtable “Responses to HIV and TB in times of COVID-19 – strengthening engagement with civil society and communities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” organized by Developing Country NGO delegation of the Global Fund Board and the Global Fund Secretariat. Miloš Perić, Program Coordinator at the Association Duga from Serbia and Silvia Asandi, General Director of the Romanian Angel Appeal Foundation presented examples of good practice during the agenda point Maintaining and adapting HIV and TB responses.

24 May

The Institute for Public Health of Montenegro formally announced that there are no more people with COVID-19 in the country!

21 May

A coordination meeting on the Support. Don’t Punish campaign was held over Zoom. This year again, DPNSEE will coordinate the campaign in the region. It will also contribute to the efforts on ensuring sustainability of the services to people who use drugs which may be jeopardised due to coronavirus outbreak.

***

Just after our meeting, the “Countdown to the Global Day of Action” webinar was held, organised by the campaign organisers. aimed for us for discussions on community mobilisation ahead of the SDP Global Day of Action.

19 May

The Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia obtained funds for protective material against coronavirus intended for vulnerable social groups. Representatives of the civil society organizations that are in direct contact with over 400 members of vulnerable categories received masks, gloves and disinfectants.

15 May

The Union of Organizations of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in Serbia (USOP) published a very practical brochure on “What do people living with HIV need to know about the new Coronavirus called COVID-19?” with the support from the French Embassy in Serbia. The brochure is available in Serbian, English and French.

13 May

Association Margina re-opened their drop-in centres, in Tuzla and now in the new premises in Zenica, Bosnia Herzegovina. Users can enter only one at a time, obligatory with masks and gloves.

12 May

Starting May 15th (end of the state of emergency in Romania), ARAS will reopen its outreach activities and will open the drop in centre for 5 days a week (instead of 2, as it was during the emergency state). ARAS reached out to all public institutions with responsibilities in the medical/social fields: we offered out expertise, knowledge and human resources to support the fight against COVID19 in the vulnerable communities of Bucharest. Discussions have started with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and with the city hall of one sector of the City. They plan to distribute masks to all our beneficiaries in our services, if they manage to find the necessary funding for this.

11 May

The Prevent Association signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health of Serbia for implementation of the harm reduction program for 2020 and started working on 11 May. Field work was renewed and a drop in centre was opened.

8 May

Civica Mobilitas Macedonia awarded five organisations with grants for fighting coronavirus in the areas of marginalized communities, education, human rights and children, youth and students. Our member organisation HOPS is one of the granted organisations for their humanitarian action for people and children who use drugs, as well as sex workers and their families.

7 May

Alliance of Non Governmental Organisations for Drugs and Addictions in Slovenia is currently in preparation for a new questionnaire for their members about COVID-19 and supply for its next phase. The results are expected in the second part of May 2020.

6 May

Civil society organisations from North Macedonia extended a public protest for untimely and inappropriate behaviour of institutions in solving the problems of vulnerable and marginalized communities. Read the protest (in Macedonian) here>>>.

4 May

Drop-in centre of the organisation Juventas returns to regular working hours from today.

3 May

Promising news from the region!

For the first time after the outbreak in the country (4 March, almost two months ago), there were no new cases of coronavirus infection in Slovenia. A great and promising news>>>

There were no new cases in Montenegro for the last 4 days.

In the Tuzla canton, in Bosnia Herzegovina, there were no new case for 18 days. All those who have been infected are cured – the last one left hospital this morning.

2 May

Prometheus reports about the Streetwork Project and crowdfounding campaign they have launched to raise food, bottled water, juices, snacks, protective medical material (masks, gloves, antiseptics) and personal hygiene items for homeless people in Athens and Thessaloniki >>>.

30 April

Drop-in centre of the Association Terra, Croatia works according to the old working hours (from 10 am to 5 pm). All services are provided, but there is a limited number of people who can stay in the drop-in at the same time. Upon entry, users must disinfect their hands, shoes and wear a mask. We still distribute masks to users who do not have them. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of users since the introduction of public transport.

28 April

Talas – Serbia based media portal “about politics, economy and ideas” published an article about effects of the coronavirus on people who use drugs in Serbia. The article is based on information published by DPNSEE and interviews with Milutin Milošević, our Executive Director, and Irena Molnar, the Executive Director of our member organisation Re Generacija. The article, in Serbia, is available here>>>.

27 April

The civil society organisations from Croatia started operating all harm reduction activities from 27 April 2020, still respecting all protective measures (use of masks, gloves, limited number of the person inside the space, etc.).

HELP are using only oral rapid test for HIV and hepatitis. Blood testing is still not recommended.

26 April

Terra, Croatia, just announced that they extend their working times. From tomorrow, their drop-in centre will be open every working day from 10 to 17. Needle exchange is still possible through the window. Clients can use showers and laundry. They can also enter the centre but only if their hands and shoes are disinfected at entrance and they wear masks, one at the time, for their personal hygienic needs. Daily shelter and kitchen are still not available.

23 April

DPNSEE held today the on-line Conference on protection of vulnerable populations in South East Europe, with support of the Service for Combatting Drug Abuse at the Croatian Institute for Public Health and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – UNODC Programme Office in Serbia.

More than 60 representatives of civil society organisations, national drug agencies, international organisations and agencies and donor community participated.

22 April

On the initiative of the Municipality of Athens and in collaboration with organisations OKANA and KETHEA a shelter for homeless users of psychoactive substances opened its doors in Athens on 22 April 2020. Read more in the news here>>>.

***

The needle exchange programs in Bulgaria, which were closed on 16 March, re-opened in Sofia on 22 April.

21 April

Civil society organisations call the Government of North Macedonia to change their decision to drastically reduce financial support to the civil society. Read more in the news (in Macedonian) here>>>.

20 April

Denis Dedajić, President of the Association Margina from Bosnia and Herzegovina sent us a short summary of the situation from March 1 to April 10.

Read about it in the news on our website here>>>.

16 April

The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy published a report on criminal activities in the Western Balkans during the COVID-19 outbreak – Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus – early findings. The report was prepared by their researcher Saša Đorđević.

With information we received from our member organisations from around the region, DPNSEE provided significant contribution to the report section that deals with Narcotics, but also general comments and proposals for recommendations.

Read more in the news here>>>

15 April

DPNSEE provided Duga with an amount of hygienic material, masks and food for vulnerable populations in their minicipality. Duga also managed to get bread as donation from the organisation Human Heart of Šabac.

The Duga team distributed 122 humanitarian packages to 251 people. Read more following this link>>>.

13 April

Greek organisations Positive Voice and Prometheus started street work to support vulnerable populations during the coronavirus outbreak. Read about it in the news on our webpage here>>>.

***

The meeting of the DPNSEE Board was held by Zoom on 13 April 2020. The meeting was scheduled to discuss the current situation related to outbreak of the coronavirus in South East Europe and plan future steps. The news from the meeting are available here>>>.

11 April

An update on activities related to coronavirus in Slovenia is presented in our news following this link>>>.

***

The extraordinary situation with coronavirus haven’t prevented Duga outreach team to continue HIV testing in cities around Serbia. On 9 April they have tested interested people in Kragujevac, Central Serbia, while the day after they went to Novi Sad in the Northern province of Vojvodina.

10 April

Timok Youth Centre from Serbia and DPNSEE continue translating and publishing UNODC documents in Serbian. Now this includes three infographics on COVID-19 – HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people who use drugs:

Uloga zajednice (originally: The role of the communities, pdf 612KB)

Saveti za korisnike (Active tips to share with clients, pdf 632KB)

Saveti za pružaoce usluga (Advice for service providers, pdf 632KB)

***

DPNSEE concluded the round of video calls with member organisations, by countries, to discuss with them about:

  1. What is the coronavirus situation in your country regarding drug policy (especially how the officials treat our key populations)?
  2. What happens with the treatment of the key populations and which are their most important problems
  3. What is new with the drug supply and how the people who use drugs are dealing with it?
  4. How are your organisations dealing with the situations, your staff and their protection and other problems?

The information obtained will be used to plan future steps in responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

9 April

Aksion Plus published an information at their website on  Ensuring the continuity of service during pandemics! It includes information on What are the risks for people who use drugs (PWUD) during COVID-19 pandemics? and Preventive measures against COVID-19 transmission in environments frequented by PWUD

To download the text in Albanian, click here>>>.

***

Our newest member organisation Philanthropy, in collaboration with the City of Kragujevac, Serbia and the local Centre for Social Work, is opening the urgent shelter for socially vulnerable homeless people in Kragujevac. This service will enable protection of beneficiaries’ health well-being and prevent COVID-19 spreading.

DPNSEE managed to provide Philanthropy with an amount of hygienic material, masks and clothes for users of their centre.

8 April

DPNSEE had signed the “Protecting our co-workers during COVID-19: A Social Security Protocol for Civil Society” published by CIVICUS – a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. Read about the Protocol here>>>.

***

Due to the current situation, Labyrinth‘s drop in centres on Kosovo in Prishtina, Gjilan and Prizren are now open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. All protective measures have been taken against the COVID-19 virus, including disinfection of the premises of their centres.

7 April

Organisation Terra from Rijeka provides food for homeless people. Their drop-in centre maintains needle exchange programme, but also gives away reusable masks and provides psychological support to people who use drugs and other vulnerable populations. Read more at the news following this link>>>

6 April

The Foundation for Open Society Macedonia, in cooperation with the Macedonian Red Cross, donated 100.000 USD for humanitarian support including food and hygienic packages for Roma population. It will be distributed to 2.000 families with around 10.000 people in 9 cities and villages across the country. Our member organisation HOPS will be among 6 civil society organisations that will organise the delivery.
More (in Macedonian) is available following this link>>>.

4 April

Organisation Institute from Pula, Croatia and company Neosalon Superius donated masks to Terra which will cover the needs of their clients.

3 April

Juventas strongly condemned the publication of the list with data on over 60 people suffering from COVID-19 and calls on the authorities to urgently find out how this serious incident occurred and stop similar human rights violations of Montenegrin citizens. Read their communique (in Montenegrin) here>>>.

2 April

We got a comprehensive information about activities of our member organisation Juventas from Montenegro about their activities on coronavirus outbreak. Have a look at http://dpnsee.org/2020/04/02/juventas-keeps-providing-services/

1 April

Four young volunteers from Prevent returned from the voluntary service in Cyprus by a special flight organised by the Government of Serbia. The plane also picked Serbian citizens from Thessaloniki.

After landing to Belgrade they were sent to a quarantine in the pupil’s campus “Patrijarh Pavle” where 11 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus – luckily, no one from the four Prevent volunteers. Yesterday, they were released home for a self-isolation.

We hope that they haven’t caught the virus and wish them to stay healthy.

***

ARAS translated and published in Romanian the INPUD’s instructions for protection against coronavirus for people who use drugs.

The version in Romanian is available at their website here>>>.

31 March

Timok Youth Centre from Serbia translated and published in Serbian the UNAIDS document “Suggestions about treatment, care and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorder in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic“.

The version in Serbian is available at their website here>>>.

The original document is available at the UNAIDS website following this link>>>.

***

An information from HOPS – Options for healthy living Skopje on their services during COVID-19 is available following this link>>>.

30 March

The local users union PeersNups (Peer Network of Psychoactive Substances) translated into Greek and published INPUD’s brochure that provides advice on coronavirus people who use psychoactive substances.

28 March

HOPS from Macedonia closed their drop-in centres but delivers sterile equipment and other material on call. Their administrative staff works from home.

27 March

The practitioner in CAZAS, Montenegro Nikolina Tomović prepared the text on “Patient rights in the time of corona“. The text is available at their website here>>>.

26 March

Timok Youth Centre from Serbia translated and published in Serbian the UNAIDS leaflet “What people living with HIV need to know about HIV and COVID-19“.

The version in Serbian is available at their website here>>>.

The original document is available at the UNAIDS website following this link>>>.

***

Juventas from Montenegro is still providing services for PWUD/PWID, SW and former prisoners:

  1. Distribution and exchange sterile injecting equipment (needles, syringes, cookers, alcohol, tourniquets, distilled water) every day except weekend from 17h to 21h, and outreach once a week from 20 to 22h. They are now doing outreach just in Podgorica and in this week they have distributed bigger amount of equipment to our clients outside Podgorica, due to the new measures – ban of traffic between cities. They will distribute more, if needed.
  2. Distribution of condoms and lubricants, in above mentioned working hours.
  3. Washing and drying clothes service, every working day from 17h to 21h.
  4. Online consultations and consultations over the phone, with their peer workers, social workers doctor and psychologist.
  5. Lunch packages with essential groceries, once a week.

25 March

ARAS from Romania reported that they face the problem of drug users returning to Romania from Italy and wanting to enter the methadone treatment. But, they cannot accept new patients anymore, because this means a long period of coming daily to our centre and they cannot guarantee it will stay open.

23 March

Our member organisation Labyrinth from Kosovo sent us information about their activities related to coronavirus outbreak:

From the last week, we have temporarily closed the Drop in. Our clients can’t stay in premises of Labyrinth, but they continue to take all the services we have, especially the Methadone Maintenance Therapy. From this week 120 clients that are in programme of Methadone Maintenance Therapy are separated in three groups, and they take away methadone for one week.

Clients can take sterile equipment. We give them information how to protect themselves from covid 19, including IEC materials, gloves, disinfectant. Unfortunately we don’t have enough masks to give them.

We have temporarily interrupted the psycho-social services, outreach activities.

From this week only necessary staff is working. Also we have started to disinfect the Labyrinth premises.

21 March

ARAS translated into Romanian the UNAIDS leaflet “What people living with HIV need to know about HIV and COVID-19”.

This version is available at their website here>>>.

20 March

Organisations Cazas and Juventas published information and instructions for protection against coronavirus in Montenegrin.

18 March

Organisation Juventas from Podgorica, Montenegro prepared “homemade” bottles with alcohol for people who use drugs they serve because the shipment of alcohol wipes they ordered was blocked at the border. A great initiative and true commitment!

16 March

Team of the Association Duga from Šabac, Serbia, visited suburbs with Roma populations and various vulnerable populations to inform them about preventive measures against coronavirus. They dedicated special attention to those who recently returned from the areas with high epidemics – Italy, Germany and Austria – who either came to visit their families back home or returned from seasonal work (especially sex workers).

This action was supported by the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the West Balkans (ReLOaD), financed by the European Union and implemented by the UNDP Office in Serbia.

14 March

Together with our member organisations Prevent and Re Generation, DPNSEE have prepared information and instructions for protection against coronavirus in Serbian for people in risk from vulnerable populations we support. We used several sources: INPUD, Leafly, Crew and BesD. These instructions will be available in various institutions and civil society organisations in Serbia.

13 March

On the initiative from civil society organisations, following the DPNSEE Public appeal to protect vulnerable groups from coronavirus COVID-19, a meeting was called by the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Republic of Serbia to discuss the measures to protect people who use drugs and other connected vulnerable groups. The meeting was held on 13 March with representatives of the Office, Ministry of Health, Special Hospital for Addictions and four civil society organisations. News about the meeting is available following this link>>>.

12 March

DrogArt translated into Slovenian and published information and instructions for protection against coronavirus.

9 March

DPNSEE sent a new letter encouraging member organisations to continue their work and three leaflets we prepared that may be of use when working with key populations and staff:

  • Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus
  • Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus for drug users and
  • Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus for cannabis users

We offered support in translating and publishing the leaflets.

7 March

Association Margina from Tuzla, Bosnia Herzegovina had a meeting with the people who use drugs they serve. Besides general issues (creating a community organisation, initiative for opening a public institution for addictions and therapy in the Tuzla canton, etc.) a special part of the meeting was dedicated to prevention measures for coronavirus.

5 March

Association “Prevent” shared larger quantities of sterile equipment to the users and other key populations they support in Belgrade, to make sure that they have it and use it in case of restrictions of move which are expected.

2 March

DPNSEE published a Public appeal to protect vulnerable groups from coronavirus COVID-19

Drug Policy Network South East Europe shares concern that the health systems may not have fully in their sight the key populations we are supporting (people who use drugs, sex workers, LGBTI and MSM, homeless, etc.) and that these populations, being side-lined in the community, may not be well informed about the threat and measures they should take to protects themselves.

28 February

Our colleagues from member organisation Terra, Rijeka, Croatia informed us that controls at the borders are reinforced, especially those with Italy. They keep informing users about the protection measures. The users show no sign of panic which is already present in some media. They give away vials with alcohol antiseptic. This is very important because most of the users they serve are homeless.

***

Slovenian authorities accepted the invitation from the Alliance of Non Governmental Organisations for Drugs and Addictions in Slovenia. The meeting is scheduled for Monday 2 March.

Luckily, there are no cases of corona virus in Slovenia.

27 February

The Alliance of Non Governmental Organisations for Drugs and Addictions in Slovenia send an invitation for a meeting with governmental institutions. The invitation was sent to the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, National Institute for Public Health and Center for Treatment of Drug Addiction at Psychiatric Clinic Ljubljana.

***

Croatia confirms third case of corona virus infection, this time in the northern Adriatic city of Rijeka where our member organisation Terra works – https://t.co/c3bApgAoJo. Our thoughts are with our colleagues there.

26 February

Last two days, the DPNSEE Board had on-line communications, including a few experts from inside the Network, on the threat of coronavirus outbreak in South East Europe following the first cases which appeared in neighbouring Italy. The first case of the virus were also reported in Croatia.

A Letter to member organisations inviting them to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak with brief instructions is being prepared and will be shared as soon as possible.

***

North Macedonia’s Health Ministry today confirmed the first case of a corona virus infection in the country – https://t.co/cHyFTqZgVt.

A woman from Skopje seems to have contracted the virus after returning from a one month stay in Italy. Our colleagues from HOPS and Coalition “Margini” operate in that city.

***

Greece’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, a 38-year-old woman admitted to a special ward at AHEPA hospital in Thessaloniki, was reported to be in relatively good condition on Wednesday – https://t.co/dB1B0YWEwg

***

Our member organisation Cazas from Montenegro posted a tweet advising those interested to contact the national Institute for public health for more information about the corona virus.

World Drug Report 2020

Around 269 million people used drugs worldwide in 2018, which is 30 per cent more than in 2009, while over 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders, according to the latest World Drug Report, released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Report also analyses the impact of COVID-19 on the drug markets, and while its effects are not yet fully known, border and other restrictions linked to the pandemic have already caused shortages of drugs on the street, leading to increased prices and reduced purity.

The Report provides a wealth of information and analysis to support the international community in implementing operational recommendations on a number of commitments made by Member States, including the recommendations contained in the outcome document of the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem, held in 2016.

To read and download the report, follow this link>>>

Support. Don’t Punish activities in 2020

Support. Don’t Punish is a global grassroots-centred initiative in support of harm reduction and drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. The campaign seeks to put harm reduction on the political agenda by strengthening the mobilisation capacity of affected communities and their allies, opening dialogue with policy makers, and raising awareness among the media and the public.

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe around the Global Day of Action 26 June – which is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The campaign 2020 shall have in South East Europe:

  • 9 countries
  • 16 cities
  • 14 organisations
  • 30+ activities
  • 33 accounts on social networks

Organisations around the region will organise raising awareness events, lectures and workshops, creating and promoting guidelines on human rights, banner and pictures campaigns, producing videos, photo exhibitions, disseminating promotional materials, meetings with the local authorities, press conferences, pub quizzes, showing movies, sharing sensitizing messages concerning COVID-19 on how to reduce stigma and other risky behaviours and much more.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic which is still hitting the region and the world, DPNSEE will not organise the traditional kick-off event in 2020.

Instead, this year DPNSEE organises a larger campaign, which will be part of our general efforts to ensure sustainability of services for people who use drugs in South East Europe – those that are under threat of being marginalised and side-lined as consequence of the coronavirus outbreak. The DPNSEE Board decided to hold a regional campaign using social media to spread messages around.

To find out what is planned in your city or country, follow this link>>>.

To see more about the campaign worldwide, follow this link>>>

Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24 – May 2020

The Coalition prEUgovor, which consists of seven civil society organizations from Serbia with expertise in various policies under chapters 23 and 24 of the European Union accession negotiations, publishes a semi-annual independent report on the progress of Serbia in chapters 23 and 24. Today, they presented the Report on Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24 – May 2020.

PrEUgovor’s monitoring of reforms in chapters 23 and 24 and certain political criteria of EU accession process indicates that, in most fields, the tendency of deterioration has continued during the period from October 2019 to April 2020. This was further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two months, especially after the state of emergency was declared on March 15.

In this prEUgovor Alarm report, special attention was given to the impact of the state of emergency – which President Vučić defined as “war against an invisible enemy” – on democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, rule of law, and security and justice in Serbia. Controversy was raised by the very declaration of the emergency state by circumventing the Parliament, without offering proper reasoning as to why it could not convene. Preparations for the elections were suspended, but public officials continued their promotional campaign in favour of the ruling party. Public procurement rules were marginalised due to the pressuring need to “save citizens’ lives”. There was serious concern about the constitutionality of the imposed restrictive measures; however, the Constitutional Court remained silent on these issues.

Free access to information of public importance and media freedoms were de facto suspended at one point, while personal data protection was put to the test. Restricted movement and slowed-down work of institutions affected especially vulnerable groups such as women and children, victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, migrants and others.

Even political commitment to European integration suffered, from the very beginning of the public health crisis, due to statements of top officials criticising alleged lack of EU solidarity while praising and pleading help from “brotherly” China. The state of emergency ended on 6 May by the decision of the National Assembly.

To read full report, follow this link>>>.

COVID-19 Stories of Substance

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, being connected, joint strategising and sharing stories from the ground is as critical as ever as we collectively work to protect human rights, ensure the health and well-being of the communities most affected by the war on drugs, and end repression and punishment as instruments of drug control.

The IDPC Secretariat have been continuing to seek ways to better support information sharing and lessons learned from across the network as we face the challenges brought by COVID-19 and the responses governments are taking. In April, they launched a survey for their members (in English, Spanish, French and Thai) to capture this information. The survey remains open indefinitely for responses and previous entries can also be added to with new information. IDPC are now ready to begin sharing some of the rich information that has been provided by their members and others in the form of a new short fortnightly newsletter.

Each COVID-19 Stories of Substance newsletter will feature a couple of relevant stories and lessons shared by people who have responded to IDPC dedicated survey on COVID-19. It will also include a curated list of news and updates every two weeks, with a specific focus on the COVID19 pandemic and its various impacts on the drug market, drug policy and related advocacy, harm reduction services, community-led mobilisation/movement, funding opportunities, and many more. IDPC will also flag upcoming online events of interest, and provide links to access recordings of recent ones.

To receive this newsletter please sign up here>>>.

 

Support. Don’t Punish regional campaign

For the fourth year already, DPNSEE coordinates the Support. Don’t Punish global advocacy campaign calling for better drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. The campaign aims to promote drug policy reform, and to change laws and policies which impede access to harm reduction interventions.

This year we organise a larger campaign, which will be part of our general efforts to ensure sustainability of services for people who use drugs in South East Europe – those that are under threat of being marginalised and side-lined as consequence of the coronavirus outbreak.

The DPNSEE Board decided to hold a regional campaign using social media to spread messages around. We prepared a set of up to 20 messages with combination of quotes from Kofi Annan‘s speeches and appropriate photographs, ready for use in Facebook, Tweeter and Instagram. They will be posted throughout June 2020, most frequently around 26 June, the Global Day of Action of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign and the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

We offered all our member organisations to share the messages through your networks. The messages will be translated in various languages and it will be simple to post and schedule their dissemination following dynamic we shall define. For the moment, 14 our organisations from 8 countries post and share the slides.

We warmly encourage all other organisations and individuals to share the messages and so contribute to the success of the campaign worldwide.

 

UNAIDS Strategy Beyond 2021 Development Process

Text from the NGO Delegation to the UNAIDS PCB

UNAIDS is now in the process of developing its next Strategy for 2021 and beyond. The timeline for developing the Strategy was supposed to have started early this year, but it was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has now been extended to accommodate a longer consultation period to ensure a full and more meaningful engagement of all stakeholders in the process. These details are reflected in the PCB Paper “UNAIDS Strategy Beyond 2021” which is posted to the UNAIDS website.

In order to determine the new goalposts and targets, it is important to take stock and review the existing strategy, UNAIDS 2016-2021 Strategy. This consultation process will involve interviews, focus group discussions and an online survey that will culminate in a multi-stakeholder consultation no later than September 2020.

As a first step in engaging communities and civil society more widely, we invite you to respond to the Online Survey. This 15-20 minute survey is an opportunity to obtain perspectives on how UNAIDS is reaching its goal to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Is the current strategy successful or not? Did it effect change? What should have been done better? Where should the next Strategy be headed? Your perspectives on these themes will help inform and shape the content of the next Strategy, so that it is more responsive, inclusive, progressive and bold in the goals and targets it will set for the global HIV response beyond 2021.

Survey Links:

English: https://bit.ly/3gND9nQ

Español: http://bit.ly/2MmkhhN

Français: http://bit.ly/2Mk2Hv1

Português: http://bit.ly/3gOPWq2

Русский: http://bit.ly/3dxIduQ

中文: http://bit.ly/36SR7jT

العربية: http://bit.ly/3cqwUmA

Candlelight Memorial in Serbia

The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, coordinated by the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+), is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness in the world. Started in 1983, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of community organizations in many countries.

The Candlelight Memorial serves as a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. With 38 million people living with HIV today, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination and giving hope to new generations.

Due to extraordinary situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Union of people living with HIV in Serbia held the Memorial on Saturday 30 May. The community members, friends, civil society activists and health institution representatives gathered in the premises of the organisation Philanthropy. We sent our thoughts and prayers to those who died of AIDS, lighted candles over the large red ribbon sign and released red balloons with messages of support for those who live with HIV.

Philanthropy prepared packages with food and hygienic materials for PLHIV in hard living conditions. Priority was given to students, unemployed, people with disability, those with severe medical problems and pensioners with monthly pensions lower than 30.000 RSD (approximately 250 EUR).

Impact of COVID-19 in Western Balkans

The EMCDDA has initiated a project investigating the impact of COVID-19 on people who use drugs, drug markets and challenges for drug service provision in the Western Balkans.

The  project is conducted using an adapted version of the Trendspotter methodology with the objective to increase our understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic and national containment measures on  patterns of drug use, emerging harms and challenges and adaptations of  drug service providers in the Western Balkan region, as well as identify potential national best practices in responding to  this public health challenge. We take a step-wise approach with the first investigation focusing on service provision, followed by drug use patterns and risks and security issues.

The  investigation has multiple components  – namely expert surveys and facilitated groups.

The survey is available here: https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/Covid-19-IPA7-health. The deadline for completing it is the 12th of June.

In the second step, EMCDDA will be approaching regional experts from drug services and informed about service provision (OST, needle exchange programmes, harm reduction, treatment, drug services in prisons) in order to get a more in-depth understanding of the developments via facilitated groups.

 

Drug-related infectious diseases in Europe

Excerpts from the EMCDDA press release

Testing for drug-related infectious diseases among people who inject drugs (PWID) is crucial if international health targets are to be met. This is among the conclusions of a new EMCDDA report Drug-related infectious diseases in Europe. The update, from the agency’s drug-related infectious disease network, stresses that early diagnosis through testing, and improving links to treatment and care, are crucial steps towards reaching global health goals.

Launched during European Testing Week (15–22 May), the report offers an overview of drug-related infectious diseases among PWID in Europe, including the prevalence and incidence of HIV and viral hepatitis. It also tracks progress on health targets and showcases successfully implemented evidence-based interventions. It underlines the need to ramp up prevention and testing and signals that European countries are lagging behind when it comes to treating hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV among PWID.

HIV and chronic viral hepatitis are highly prevalent among people who inject drugs, being transmitted through the sharing of injecting equipment, such as needles and syringes. Addressing the needs of this group is critical to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3), which calls for ending the AIDS epidemic and combatting viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 (SDG 3.3).

Besides data which include SEE countries which are EU members, there is a small update from neighbouring countries within the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance 7 and EU4Monitoring Drugs project:

The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) 7 technical cooperation project comprises six beneficiary countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo (1), Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. Data on PWID and other key populations in the region are available from RDS seroprevalence studies: Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia have conducted such surveys in the past 3 years; Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia are planning to collect data in 2020. There were no HIV-positive cases among PWID in recent surveys conducted in Kosovo or North Macedonia (Mikikj, 2017); older HIV prevalence estimates among PWID ranged between 0 % in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015 (Skocibusic et al., 2016) to 2 % in Serbia in 2013 (IPH Serbia, 2013). Most recent HCV infection prevalence estimates ranged from 23.8 % in Kosovo to 72 % in North Macedonia. All six beneficiaries are signatories of the Dublin Declaration.

To read full report, follow this link>>>