Correlation Focal points and expert group meeting

The Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network held its Focal point and expert group meeting from 2 to 4 October 2019 in Helsinki. The meeting gathered 60 participants from 31 countries and territories. Among them, DPNSEE network members are focal points for Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria (not present at the meeting), Greece, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.

The agenda included a wide range of interesting issues including New projects on European level, Results of the first round of monitoring harm reduction, Challenges in Harm Reduction and also Correlation state of affairs and Methadone shortage in Romania. Complementing this agenda, participants were given the opportunity to join a series of workshops on Advocacy, Peer Involvement and Intervention Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. Building upon this pool of expertise, the event offered the possibility to present developments in the different EU countries in regard to drug policy and harm reduction and to disseminate relevant work and activities.

Since the launch of the monitoring tool for harm reduction organizations, Correlation Focal Points have been working on collecting the required data and information. The tool had more than 100 questions and 35 countries from Europe participated. Some results are strange. For instance, the only 3 countries in Europe which expressed civil society’s good cooperation with governments were Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina and Romania! During the meeting, participants shared their experiences and provided feedback on the tool and the process.

Ms Dagmar Hedrich, Head of the Health consequences and responses sector, Lead scientist for harm reduction at EMCDDA, presented the data collected by the agency. DPNSEE Vice President and Executive Director asked what can we do with outdated data coming from some EMCDDA focal points and how could they include data from candidate and non-EU countries? The reply we got was that EMCDDA’s institutional obligation is to report on 28 EU countries and 2 who pay for their services (Norway and Turkey) and that budget cuts and no funds prevent them to cover more. An interesting view Ms Hedrich proposed is that the civil society organisations can perform social autopsy of overdose deaths of people who were using their services. The implementation researches are one of important potentials of CSOs – qualitative information they can provide. A good model they use is that EMCDDA prepares short reports with key messages, tailored for policy makers, followed by webpages or web based portals which give a full information.

The presentation from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was focused on monitoring in general and on Hepatitis in particular. It emphasized that there is a big problem with low number of those diagnosed for HEP, huge numbers in prisons and lack of accurate data.

On Friday 4, the seminar Wellbeing economy – A way to sustainability in the HIV and AIDS response? was held as an official side event during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in cooperation with HIV Finland.

Budget analysis presented in Serbia

The budget analysis in Serbia was completed and presented on an event organised jointly by Prevent and DPNSEE in the EU Info Centre in Belgrade on 1 October 2019. The analysis was prepared in scope of the project Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in countries of South East Europe by the team of consultants engaged by Prevent.

The surveys were of a meta-analytic nature, conducted on data and information obtained on the basis of publicly available documents published by state bodies: the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia, the Customs Administration and the Agency for Business Registers.

The aim of the research was to explore the status and trends of program financing in order to find opportunities and solutions for securing funds for their sustainability.

The analysis clearly shows a continuous decrease in the allocation of funds for preventive health care, regardless of whether the total budget of the Ministry is increased or decreased and whether the budget of the Ministry of Health occupies a higher or lower percentage in the national budget for a given year. The most significant finding is the constantly present difference in the planned and executed budget – the allocated/spent funds are continuously reduced compared to those planned.

The Analysis of the budgets in Serbia is available following this link>>>

Besides the analysis of the budget of the Ministry of Health which was produced, DPNSEE has prepared and presented an analysis of the public calls for prevention of the Ministry of Health. This analysis is available following this link>>>.

 

Results of the budget advocacy presented

A workshop on Budget advocacy and monitoring in South East Europe was held in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina from 23 to 25 September 2019. Aim of the workshop was to present and discuss the results of the budget analysis implemented by mr sci Faruk Hadžić dipl ecc with support of the Association Margina team, the coordinating organisation of the regional project Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in countries of South East Europe for the country.

Even though the organisers made a huge effort to invite representatives of various institutions, not many of them participated in the workshop. But, the quality of presentation and facilitation provoked a very fruitful discussion and motivating atmosphere.

The conclusions of the workshop are summarised in one sentence: There is enough money in the system, but planning, analysis and strategic thinking are weak and they hit back as a boomerang.

The contacts established and agreements made are optimistic with hope that in the forthcoming period an open process of designing the system of social contracting of civil society services in Bosnia Herzegovina.

The Analysis of the budgets in Bosnia and Herzegovina is available following this link>>>

 

What does Universal Health Coverage mean for People Who Use Drugs

On 23 September 2019, world leaders adopted a high-level United Nations Political Declaration on universal health coverage (UHC) at the United Nations General Assembly. In adopting the declaration, U.N. Member States have committed to advance towards UHC by investing in four major areas around primary health care.

These include mechanisms to ensure no one suffers financial hardship because they have had to pay for healthcare out of their own pockets and implementing high-impact health interventions to combat diseases and protect women’s and children’s health. In addition, countries must strengthen health workforce and infrastructure and reinforce governance capacity. They will report back on their progress to the U.N. General Assembly in 2023.

The International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) published a Technical Brief which explains how UHC can be both an opportunity and a concern for the health and rights of people who use drugs.

Through sustained diplomacy and negotiation at the political level and strong and concerted advocacy from civil society and communities, UHC is now prominent in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The principle of the SDGs is ‘leave no one behind’; this should be taken to mean that those on the fringes of society are accorded the same rights to health and wellbeing as the most privileged. People who use drugs, along with other criminalised and marginalised populations, clearly fit into this category.

To read the Technical Brief, follow this link>>>

6-0 Tournament for People Against Addictions

The featured image of this news presents teams of Kethea (Greece) and HOPS (North Macedonia) which, besides sport competition and cooperation in the area of addiction, promote friendship and multi-cultural understanding.

The sixth edition of the 6:0 International People’s Tournament for People Against Addictions was held during the weekend at the Boyana National Football Base of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU), with participating teams Heart Team, School of Life, Live, HOPS, SVOI, Bilani, Kethea ithaki, Open Eyes, New Beginnings, Remar, Renaissance, Freedom, Solidarity, ON LIFE and KA Sport Jump coming from Bulgaria, Greece, Northern Macedonia, Slovakia, Russia and Ukraine.

The official opening ceremony, held on 13 September, was preceded by a round table with the participation of the Minister of Youth and Sports Krasen Kralev, Deputy Minister of Health Svetlana Yordanova, Deputy BFU Executive Director Anton Popov and representatives of the Sofia Municipality. The round table discussed the problems with dependent behaviour in Bulgaria.

“The fight against youth addiction is a priority topic in the activities of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. One of the main programs of the Ministry with a budget of BGN 2 million a year is the National Program for the implementation of youth activities. In its essence it represents a real counteraction to aggression and all kinds of addictions through the implementation of various preventive activities and the inclusion of sport as a main tool for prevention”, Minister Kralev told the roundtable participants.

Special guests of the tournament are the popular TV presenter, singer and cook Leo Bianchi and former Bulgarian football national Stanislav Angelov. The two will also participate in the event as part of Team Heart.

The project is organized by the Revenche Association and the School for Life Foundation, co-financed by the Municipal Strategy for the Development of Physical Education and Sport of Sofia Municipality and supported by the Sofia – European Capital of Sport initiative.

This event is a citizens’ initiative. The project is organized by specialists with experience in the treatment of addiction who know the problem internally. Since 2015, with the assistance of the Bulgarian Football Union, five tournaments have been held under the common slogan “Not all people are addicts, but all addicts are people!

 

14 September – Sex Worker Pride day

Today is Sex Worker Pride day, a day for sex worker community to celebrate their achievements and share stories of sex workers’ self-determination while honouring the tireless efforts of colleagues everywhere to secure rights and safety for all sex workers. It is an opportunity to celebrate and share stories of sex workers’ self-determination and the achievements of the sex worker rights movement.

After its introduction by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), the Sex Worker Pride day becomes the fourth annual key date of the sex workers rights movement. Globally sex workers face many challenges in day to day life. They are being marginalised, stigmatised and stripped from their rights. Their voices are often ignored but they never stop pursuing the rights they desperately need. The sex workers rights movement is powerful with a vibrant and diverse community that has drive and compassion that’s too big to be stopped by the difficulties they are facing.

Sex Worker Pride extends to all marginalised by criminalisation, discrimination and stigma across the sex worker movement and celebrates the diversity within our community during International Sex Worker Pride.

To mark the first Sex Worker Pride day, our colleagues from the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN), a sex worker-led regional network in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia publishes its Annual Report that shows SWAN’s work in diverse areas in order to achieve our objectives as laid out in our Strategic Plan 2018-2022. We join our members, colleagues and allies in celebrating our never ending passion for creating a better world for sex workers.

This annual report is available in English and Russian.

In Greece, the phrase “Take care of each other” continues to inspire the team of Red Umbrella Athens. A new initiative of the Day Centre and the DPNSEE member organisation Positive Voice Roadmap is the “Before You Enter, Put In” campaign. This is an attempt to sensitize sex studio clients to avoid taking photos or videos in their respective locations without the consent of the people working there. As part of Red Umbrella Athens team visits to sex studios, this issue has often been communicated as a major problem that disrupts their functioning.

 

Organisation STAR-STAR from North Macedonia, the First Sex Workers Collective in the Balkans, released a video to mark the Sex Worker Pride day.

Pride Week in Belgrade started

Belgrade Pride Week 2019 has begun on Monday 9th and will end with the Belgrade Pride, which will be held on Sunday 15th September.

The opening ceremony was held at the City of Belgrade’s National Assembly. Jovanka Todorović, representing the Organizational board of Belgrade Pride, opened this year’s Pride Week and gave an overview of all the important events that will take place. Goran Miletić and Marko Mihailović, fellow members of the Organizational board, spoke about the political messages of the “I do not renounce” campaign, as well as Belgrade’s candidature to host EuroPride in 2022.

Pride Week: Grand Opening

During this week Belgrade Pride will organize workshops, open talks with the community, exhibitions, movies projections, performances as well as the first Belgrade Pride Theater Festival. This year the face of the Pride is singer Sara Jovanović.

Also, the Pride Info Center with our associate member association Duga (Rainbow), will provide free HIV testing, every day during Pride Week from 3pm to 6pm, in Kralja Milana 20 in Belgrade.

The Pride walk will begin on Sunday at 5 pm on Slavija Square.

The plan and program of events during the Pride Week 2019 and plan of  Pride Walk is available following link>>>

 

The International Overdose Day marked around SEE

On the occasion of the International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), DPNSEE issued a press release underlining the importance of awareness and fighting stigma on overdose and presenting data about the issue worldwide and especially in Serbia. The release was published by the national Press agency Tanjug and several other media and portals.

The press release is downloadable following this link>>>

In Montenegro, NGO Juventas also issued a press release (supported by the NGO 4 Life) and held a press conference where Marija Mijović, coordinator of Programme of direct assistance to the people in risk of social exclusion presented situation in the country. A movie “Overdose”, directed by Mladen Vujović, outreach worker at the Drop-in Centre of NGO Juventas, Montenegro in cooperation with the Hungarian Drug reporters, was screened at the Green Montenegro International Film Festval.

Our colleagues from the Romanian Harm Reduction Network created a special video for this year’s IOAD campaign. Have a look at “Voices of the drug users. Episode 1”

Association AREAL and AREALTRIBE group from Slovenia organized a workshop dedicated to the International overdose awareness day on 1 September 2019 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Participants were educated how to respond if an individual finds himself or herself in that position.

Our colleagues from the Healthy Options Skopje (HOPS) promoted widely their webpages related to overdose and drugs

Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose and the fact is, overdose is an increasing global problem. Spreading the message that the tragedy of overdose and injury is preventable, International Overdose Awareness Day raise awareness of overdose and reduces the stigma associated with the drug-related death. Also, the day of awareness is providing support to families and loved ones of overdose victims, so that no one is forgotten.

Time to remember – time to act.

Alarming situation in Bosnia Herzegovina

With delay in establishing political structures in the country and reduced international donor support, the situation with harm reduction services in Bosnia Herzegovina became alarming. Here is what we heard from Denis Dedajić, Chairman of the Association Margina and DPNSEE Board member:

The current situation is as follows: the Margin Association is the only survivor with the services and we provide them now and on a larger scale because no other service provided by other NGOs is active, so all clients have turned to us. We are taking over users and equipment from Sarajevo and we shall organise distribution with support of few gatekeepers who used to work for us recently.

I estimate that we will endure until the end of October and after that we shall have no more materials for distribution. The salaries of our staff need not be talked about, as of May we are all volunteers and the funds we had are already spent on transportation and rents of the space we use.

The situation is further complicated by a few things. What concerns us most are the indolence of the authorities and the large waves of migrants coming to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yesterday, I was in contact with asylum officers and they informed me that about 1.000 immigrants a day enter northern Bosnia and in different ways move west to the border with Croatia and the EU respectively. They aim at Western Europe, but their psycho-physical condition is very poor. There is an increasing number of fatalities, both as a result of illness (quite a large number of TB and Hepatitis C), which is due to conflicts between groups from different countries (Afghanistan Pakistan, Algeria Morocco, Syria, Bangladesh). These conflicts generally end with very serious injuries by knives or other cold weapons. We have had about 100 contacts so far and have been using sterile injection supplies. According to asylum officers, many drug users have been around for several years.

NO one is doing anything on this issue, and we are simply waiting for when a major incident will occur so that everything will surface.

We sincerely hope that a solution will be found soon to revitalize the harm reduction services and ensure health support needed.

Awareness video on human rights and harm reduction approach

Our member organisation Labyrinth invite to check out awareness video-animation they produced on Human rights and Harm reduction approach for people who use drugs in Kosovo.

The video was a part of the project that Labyrinth implemented “Enhancing drug user’s rights and entitlements” and was supported by the EU Office in Kosovo. The purpose of the “ENDURE” project was to create a more appropriate environment for people from marginalized communities to realize health, social and legal rights and to be involved in all processes of social life.

The project aimed to address the needs of discriminated and stigmatized groups by strengthening their capacities to invoke anti-discrimination law. The “ENDURE” project also aimed to raise awareness against discrimination providing legal and psychological support to drug users and improve access to drug users.

In scope of the ENDURE project, Labyrinth prepared two publications (both in Albanian):

Have a look at this excellent video. Subtitles are available both in English and Serbian language.