First World atopic eczema day held in Serbia

National association Allergy and me

September 14 marks the 2nd European Atopic Eczema Awareness Day aimed to raise awareness and understanding of the disease and its impact on the people living with it. For the first time in Serbia, World atopic eczema day was held, in the city central park in Belgrade, organized by National association Allergy and me.

Host of the meeting was our colleague Snežana Šundić Vardić who leads the association.

During the event, free dermatologist examinations, educational and creative workshops for kids were conducted. This is a good example of developing an awareness of the health problems that are marginalized.

Atopic Eczema is a demanding disease and much tougher on patients than people understand. Intense and persistent itching is one of its most debilitating symptoms, leading to long-lasting pain. It nearly always restricts quality of life, impacts mental health and leads to the development of other diseases.

Each day, people living with atopic eczema experience how the disease impacts their lives beyond their skin. The new EFA Atopical Lives online photo exhibition introduces people living with atopic eczema and shows how the disease influences their daily activities and quality of life: eczema patients need to constantly adapt their daily lives to avoid additional skin irritation. They carefully choose ordinary activities such as cooking, playing sports, enjoying leisure-time or hobbies because their atopic skin requires preparation not to have symptoms worsen. Common consumer goods such as cosmetic and hygiene products, bedding or clothes are also part of their prevention strategies, leading to considerable extra-spending. The cost to get the care they need is too high: European severe atopic eczema patients spend on average 927, 12 € a year.

Atopic eczema often develops in childhood, but it can also appear in adulthood. It almost never comes alone but instead is linked to other atopic diseases: almost half of all eczema patients live with allergy to pollen, around a third have allergies to either house dust mites, animals or certain foods, and many life with asthma. The majority of mild atopic eczema patients can have their symptoms reduced thanks to moisturisers or corticosteroids. However, their recurring symptom cycles are not treated.

Snežana with visitors at the event

Chem-Sex and the City

On the occasion of the Global Day of Action of the “Support.” Don’t Punish” campaign and within the Pride Month, NGO Re Generation with the support of the Belgrade Pride Info Centre, in cooperation with the regional ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association, organized the premiere of the movie: “Chem-Sex and the city“. This short documentary was produced with the support of the Right Reporter Foundation and firstly presented at the Harm Reduction International 2019 conference in Portugal this April.

The movie is part of the activities Re Generation has related to public advocacy for awareness raising about problems related to psychoactive substances. The event marked the launch of an open dialogue about chemsex which will include mapping the needs to design appropriate services.

After the movie, Stefan Pejić from NGO Re Generation spoke on “ChemSex and what stands behind this phenomenon”, Zoran Milosavljević, independent researcher on “ChemSex in Serbia – Strategic (in) visibility of practice and its implications” and Amarillo Fecanji from ERA on “Regional perspectives and initial steps in mapping respond to the appearance of ChemSex”.

Planning for the future

Following the proposal from the General Assembly held in last December, Drug Policy Network South East Europe held a Strategic Workshop from 14 to 17 May 2019. The workshop was held in the Student Resort on Avala Mountain, nearby Belgrade.

At the Assembly, DPNSEE has analysed achievement of aims and objectives of the strategic plan adopted in 2016 and indicated in which way and by which activities the priorities will be followed in the next years. Now, the aim of the Workshop was to continue this process and define DPNSEE strategic priorities, goals and targets for the forthcoming period.

Representatives of all member organisations were invited to participate in the Workshop. 21 participants from 9 countries of the region gathered for a three-day workshop and worked in cooperation. The consultant which helped us to design the Workshop, facilitate work and structure the outcomes was Raminta Štuikyte.

In preparations for the Workshop, DPNSEE member organisations were invited to fill in a survey to present their situation and needs. In addition, a survey was offered to a variety of partners, from national drug agencies to regional and international organisations, to help us understand better the situation and trends in a wider context. The feedback was an important input for the Workshop.

Five priority areas were identified (working titles):

  • Optimisation of services
  • Financial sustainability
  • Regulating drugs
  • Human rights
  • Strengthening the network

For each of them, small groups were discussing questions: What kind of changes you want to see? What Network could do? (types of activities, partnerships…) Which are the priority countries for the issue from the region? Which member organisations could take the lead? Which are potential sources of funding? What should we do in the first two years.

Results of the Workshop are being processed and will be offered to all the member organisations for further development. Following the Workshop, we shall continue strategic work so that the new Strategic Plan is adopted at the annual General Assembly planned for the end of 2019.

Concert for decriminalisation

“The initiative to change the cannabis legislation” – Association IRKA, together with the Social cannabis club Beograd and cannabis vlog Domaćica, organised the Concert for Cannabis Decriminalisation on 4 May 2019, if front of the National Parliament in Belgrade, Serbia. The concert was dedicated to celebration of the International day for cannabis-related protests and events, known around the World as the “Weed Day”.

IRKA is the first official association advocating cannabis legalization in Serbia, founded in August 2013. Members are patients, their family members and all the citizens who want to help them achieve the ability to legally obtain and use cannabis and the extract of cannabis flowers in order to treat their conditions.

A selection of musicians, mainly reggae and rock musicians, performed from late afternoon to the midnight for hundreds of fans and much more people passing by.

How have closing of services affected drug users?

DPNSEE member organisation Re Generacija implemented the survey “Access to services of ex-users of the needle and syringe programme closed in Belgrade and Budapest” with the support of the Rights Reporter Foundation. Aim of the survey, implemented in 2018, was to analyse the consequences of closing the services and the effects that it has on risks and daily life of injecting drug users. Objectives included to reach out to the service users and learning about their current use of substances, mapping their access to services, sterile injecting equipment and analysing their perception of the closure of services and most important currently missing service. The conference was also an opportunity to discuss the current situation with recently established outreach programmes, as well as opioid substitution therapy and early warning system for new psychoactive substances.

The results of the survey were presented today at the conference organised together with the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Republic of Serbia. The conference was held in the Palace of Serbia, with participants coming from both governmental and civil society sectors.

Two major groups of users were approached by the survey: drug users which were using the services for a long time and Roma people. A typical drug user both in Belgrade and Budapest is male, in mid-forties, with low education and income. In Budapest, users mainly use new psychoactive substances (synthetic cathinones), while in Belgrade they mainly use opioids (heroine). One of the main conclusion from the survey is that closing the services caused even more difficulties to reach out to drug users who are usually very suspicious.

To get more information and results of the survey, please contact Re Generacija following this link>>>>.

Project partners meeting

The meeting of the partners in the EU Funded project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South Eastern Europe” was held in Belgrade, Serbia, on Monday, 10 December 2018. This was the last meeting of the project which lasted for 4 years, supported by the European Commission DG Near.

The partners approved the minutes from the recent meeting, held on 12 September by Skype, and partners informed about the recent activities.

Margina has finished with the activities of the programme. Prevent has yet to implement a press conference, most probably in Belgrade by the end of the year. Diogenis has finished with the activities of the programme, except from the last newsletter. Olga Pateraki informed the partners of the reallocation regarding the budget of Diogenis, in order to translate in Greek and print the booklet “Drug Policy reform, The UNGASS 2016 a catalyst for change”.

DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milosevic informed the partners about the activities that has been implemented during this period: the country visits in Romania and in Greece, the General Assembly that took place in Belgrade, the capacity building that was held during September, the Resource Centre and the Glossary. The Glossary has been printed and there is in English, Spanish and Serbo-Croatian, with the intention to be translated also in other languages. The discrimination paper has been started but not reached yet the desired recorded cases.

The partners have agreed to send all their final financial reports by the 10th of January to Diogenis in order to prepare the final financial report, who is collecting and preparing the reports. The financial report will be also in a format of detailed breakdown that the EC asks along with the final report. The reports of the activities will be also sent to Diogenis in order to compile them for the final report in January.

New DPNSEE Board elected at the General Assembly

The new DPNSEE Board was elected at the General Assembly, held on 10th December 2018, in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Chairman reminded the representatives of the member organisations that there is no clear procedure for this election in the Statute and proposed the following procedure:

  • Select three persons for the commission (persons who are neither nominated nor a member of organisations whose members are nominated)
  • Nominate candidates for the Board
  • Vote anonymously for seven Board members
  • Commission to count votes and declare the results

The proposed procedure was adopted by a unanimous decision.

Commission members that fulfill the criteria were selected:

  1. Olga Pateraki from Diogenis, Greece,
  2. Nataša Boškova from Coalition ‘Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities’, Macedonia and
  3. Marjana Krsmanović from Juventas Montenegro.

There were 9 candidates proposed for for the Board. Elected members of the DPNSEE Board are:

  1. Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation
  2. Denis Dedajić from Margina
  3. Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice
  4. Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent
  5. Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth
  6. Sanja Šišović from Cazas
  7. Vlatko Dekov from HOPS

The proposal to choose Vlatko Dekov as the President and Nebojša Đurasović as the Vice-President of the Board was adopted by a unanimous decision of all 16 member organisations representatives.

During the discussion about the elections, the proposals were made to change the Statute so that all functions other than president and vice-president become just „member“ and to extend the duration of the mandate of the Board members from two years to three. The Assembly at this meeting had 2/3 majority needed for the change of Statute. The proposed changes of the Statute were adopted by a unanimous decision.

Nebojša Đurasović proposed the new co-opting procedure – if somebody resigns from the Board during their mandate to be replaced with the first person below the line from the list of nominated but not elected persons if that person agrees. This proposal brought about a short discussion of possible issues in proposed case. On this proposed change of the Statute 14 member organisations representatives voted for and 2 against which was not sufficient majority for the Statute change, so it was not adopted.

Drug Policy Network South East Europe General Assembly 2018

With the support from the Central European Initiative (CEI) and funded through the European Union project, The Drug Policy Network South East Europe organised regular annual General Assembly on 10 December 2018 in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The participants at the Assembly were welcomed by Milan Pekić, Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia. In their short opening speeches, Mr Pekić and the President of the Board of the Network Vlatko Dekov emphasized the importance of partnership in achieving the aim of effective drug policies.

The participants held voting rights from 16 out of 22 ordinary member organisations. That provided the Assembly with the right to make qualified decisions, even those related to the amendments to the Statute.

The Assembly was chaired by Anna Lyubenova, representative of the member organisation Initiative for Health Foundation from Bulgaria.

During the agenda point on membership issues, candidatures for membership from two organisations were discussed. The Assembly unanimously recognised as ordinary members Timok Youth Center from Zaječar, Serbia and Center for Human Policy from Sofia, Bulgaria. The Network now has 24 ordinary and 2 associate member organisations.

The General Assembly discussed the Operational and financial report for 2018 and elements for the Action plan and the Financial plan for 2019. The General Assembly welcomed the reports. They will be completed with the activities in December and then be adopted. The Assembly analysed the donor and funding trends and issues and concluded that, based on donor research, negotiation and exchange, no funding from EU for the Network can be expected for 2019 and some amounts can be obtained for year 2020, more project based. Funding plans and activities and possible issues that might be funded in 2019 include budget advocacy, the Network being the leader on the issue of quality of services in the region, redefining harm reduction and human rights element of the approach in work. The need for greater participation in relevant international events and DPNSEE taking role in organizing regional events were emphasized.

Nine candidates applied for elections to the DPNSEE Board. The new Board includes Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation, Denis Dedajić from Margina, Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice, Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent, Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth, Sanja Šišović from Cazas and Vlatko Dekov from HOPS.

The Assembly decided to keep at the current positions Vlatko Dekov as the President, and Nebojša Đurasović as Vice-President.

More information about the elections are available following this link >>>

An external consultant Jarmila Bujak Stanko facilitated the strategic workshop through which participants analysed achievement of aims and objectives of the strategic plan adopted in 2016 and indicated in which way and by which activities the priorities will be followed in the next two years.

The General Assembly ended in a positive and friendly atmosphere with an improved sense of belonging to the Network.

Regional cooperation for the development of civil societies and open dialogue

Drug Policy Network South East Europe organizes the conference Regional cooperation for the development of civil societies and open dialogue on Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 December 2018, in The  Palace of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia. The Conference is supported by the Central European Initiative, from their CEI Cooperation Activities programme and the Office of combating drugs of the Government of Serbia.

The first day of the Conference will be dedicated to the DPNSEE General Assembly. The member organisations will discuss operational and financial report for 2018 and plans for the next year, candidatures for new members and elect the Board. A strategic workshop will help establishing priorities, aims, objectives and activities to achieve them in the next three years.

The thematic RECODOD Conference will be also held in The Palace of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia, on the second working day. The aim of the conference is to bring together member organisations and other civil society organisations, policy makers and researchers active in the drugs field in South East Europe, in order to discuss drug policy developments and trends, exchange experiences and best practices in the region.

The agenda of the Conference will focus on drug policy developments and trends and exchanging experiences and best practices in the region on:

  • Drugs and immigrants
  • Legislation and procedures in cases of arrest and judiciary process for drug users
  • Accreditation of services by national health institutions

Participation of other peer organisations, governments, experts and keynote speakers from countries of South East Europe and wider is expected.

 

Sustainable Services for PLHIV and HIV Prevention Conference

The Union of Organizations of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in Serbia (USOP) hosted the international conference on Sustainable Services for PLHIV and HIV Prevention in Belgrade on November 28, 2018. This one-day conference supported by UNDP Programme in Serbia gathered 110 relevant stakeholders from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro in an attempt to move the PLHIV service agenda forward through co-thinking and cross-sectorial experience exchange.

The Conference Sustainable Services for PLHIV and HIV Prevention contributed an important piece to the puzzle of PLHIV’s health, social, economic, and overall well-being in Serbia and the region by opening up a dialogue on the cost of services for PLHIV. Through active interactions between practitioners in key sectors, public officials, service providers and service users, the conference shed a new light on prevention of HIV infection and, specifically the role of PLHIV organizations in community resilience building.

Participants agreed that investments in development of standards and services, training of service providers, piloting and testing should be respected, recognized and more readily considered by the welfare systems through urgent development of formal standards that will lead to effective service mainstreaming and access to regular service funding. In the meantime, project funding remains an interim solution but one that clearly threatens sustainability and quality of services.

Several DPNSEE member organisations representatives participated in the Conference