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.

 

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.

 

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>>>.

 

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

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.

People with drug use disorders maybe particularly vulnerable to COVID-19

The UNODC Prevention Treatment Rehabilitation Section published Suggestions about treatment, care and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorder in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic – A contribution to the health security of countries and communities. The document underlines that it is crucial to ensure drug treatment, care and rehabilitation services for people who use drugs and people with drug use disorders continue in the time of coronavirus outbreak. It is the key not only to protect the health of vulnerable populations, but also key to security and stability.

UNODC suggests that Member States and drug treatment, care and rehabilitation systems and services develop plans to ensure continuity of care for people who use drugs and people with drug use disorders, bearing in mind the following issues:

  • Address continued access to the services
  • Address the safety of the staff and the patients at the services
  • Make sure the premises of the services are clean and hygienic
  • Provide people with information on and means to protect themselves at every possible occasion
  • Continuity of low-threshold services
  • Continuity of pharmacological therapy
  • Support homeless people, including people with drug use disorders
  • Under no condition should a person be denied access to health care based on the fact that they use drugs!

To read the document follow this link>>>

COVID-19 and people who use drugs

What specific risks are people who use drugs (PWUD) likely to face during the COVID-19 pandemic? What services will they need? How will professionals working with this group adapt on the frontline? These are among the questions raised and answered in a new EMCDDA briefing.

The briefing offers information about:

  • Context – the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) in the EU
  • What are the particular risks for people who use drugs (PWUD) during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Underlying chronic medical conditions are associated with some forms of drug use and increase the risk of developing severe illnesses
  • The risk of drug overdose may be increased among PWUD who are infected with COVID-19
  • Sharing drug-using equipment may increase the risk of infection
  • Crowded environments increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19
  • Risks of disruption in access to drug services, clean drug-using equipment and vital medications
  • Implementing prevention measures against transmission of COVID-19 in settings used by PWUD
  • Guaranteeing continuity of care during the pandemic
  • Ensuring service continuity
  • Service provider protection during the pandemic – important interventions to consider

The briefing is available at the EMCDDA website following this link>>>

Global Fund response to COVID-19

Extract from the Global Fund Note on COVID-19

The escalating COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is changing the way that we live and work. The Global Fund is adapting to the rapidly changing circumstances, to remain focused on:

  1. Maximizing impact from the current grant cycle, and
  2. Working with partners for the timely submission of high-quality grant applications, along with strong Prioritized Above Allocation Requests.

In the Guidance Note on Responding to COVID-19, the Global Fund underlined that

The Global Fund strongly encourages countries to consider and take prompt action to mitigate the potential negative consequences of COVID-19 on existing programs supported by Global Fund grants. Particular attention should be given to health worker protection, communication to affected communities, maintenance of essential services, supply chain coordination, early replenishment of stocks, disinfection of assets, waste management. Related costs may be approved by the Global Fund as eligible expenditure.

To give countries further flexibility in responding to COVID-19, the Global Fund will consider, subject to prior approval:

  • Timebound reprogramming of savings under existing grants (up to a limit of 5% of total grant value) and/or;
  • Redeployment of resources procured through existing grants, particularly infrastructure and capacities that become under-utilized because of COVID-19.

 Eligible activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Epidemic preparedness assessment;
  • Laboratory testing;
  • Sample transportation;
  • Use of surveillance infrastructure;
  • Infection control in health facilities;
  • Information campaigns.

 Where there are no savings possible in existing grants or in other exceptional circumstances, an existing grant may be re-programmed up to an additional limit of another 5% of its total value.

The Global Fund constantly monitors COVID-19 developments and is working to adapt its guidelines accordingly. Further updates will be issued in the coming weeks. Visit their website for the latest information following this link>>>.

 

Instructions on coronavirus in Serbian

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.

The instructions are printed in 500 – 2.000 copies to share to the key populations.

These instructions will be available in various institutions and civil society organisations in Serbia. We expect that they will be adjusted to local languages in some other countries of South East Europe.

General harm reduction tips for people who use drugs
General prevention measures against coronavirus COVID-19
Instructions for people who take drugs snorting
Instructions for people who use cannabis
Instructions for people who go clubbing
Instructions for sex workers

Together against coronavirus

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.

All participants agreed that vulnerable groups need to be supported for their personal and protection of the entire society. Conclusions include

  • By noon on Monday 16 all service providers will send estimations of their needs for materials they need to protect the key populations they serve and their staff. The Office for Combating Drugs will collect them and send a joint request to the Ministry of social affairs. Once they are provided, they will be distributed to the organisations.
  • The Office will also request for an information about the needs of the shelters for children, young people and elderly and try to organise support to them.
  • Funds for the additional support will be requested from the project supported by the Global Fund and Ministry of Health, at least for the staff supporting the key affected populations.
  • Civil society organisations are preparing specific instructions for people who use drugs and other vulnerable populations and share them both through social networks and printed materials.

 

Public appeal to protect vulnerable groups from coronavirus COVID-19

To:

National health authorities and institutions

National drug agencies and responsible

National social services

Civil society organisations

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern over a new coronavirus, which causes an illness officially known as COVID-19 that has killed more than 2,900 people worldwide. As of 1 March, the outbreak has affected an estimated 87,000 people in at least 30 countries globally. The key issues are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people and what proportion become severely ill and end up in hospital.

Outbreak of the epidemic in Italy, neighbouring country to our region, brought the virus to our region. First cases were reported at the bordering cities of Trieste and Gorizia near Slovenia, but also in Austria, Croatia, Romania, North Macedonia and Greece. It is pretty realistic that they will appear in other South East European countries.

We believe that the health systems in South East Europe countries and wider are well prepared and will react efficiently, without panic but also taking situation seriously.

Still, 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.

Governments have to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to remain healthy and educated. Alongside preparedness measures, countries must ensure efforts to achieve a truly inclusive universal health coverage grounded on rights-based laws, policies and procedures by prioritizing and protecting vulnerable groups.

To combat stigma and discrimination and achieve universal health coverage vulnerable populations are faced with, we must not divide ourselves further. Viruses don’t discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender identity, lifestyle or sexual orientation.

On our side, DPNSEE and our member organisations, especially those who provide services to people who use drugs and other connected vulnerable groups, are ready to play they role in overall efforts to fight the problems caused by this epidemic. We have already started prevention activities and are preparing for situation when/if epidemics escalates.

DPNSEE is a regional network with a wealth of experience from around the region. We think that this is the situation when we all should act together, for the benefit of all members of our societies.

 

Drug Policy Network South East Europe

2 March 2020

 

You can download the Appeal following this link>>>

Ready for COVID-19?

In December 2019, a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first isolated from three patients with pneumonia, connected to the cluster of acute respiratory illness cases from Wuhan, China. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. More about the virus is available in the video bellow.

According to the latest epidemiological data on 25 February, the total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 80,407 globally, and 2,708 people have died from the virus, which puts the mortality rate at nearly 3.4%. This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation with ongoing outbreak investigations. More about the virus is available at the World Health Organisation webpage following this link>>> and at the webpage of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Outbreak of the epidemic in Italy, neighbouring country to our region, saw 322 cases in a very short period of time, with 11 deaths, while cities of Cremona and Brescia turned into quarantine. First cases were also reported in Croatia, Romania, North Macedonia and Greece and also in Austria. It is pretty realistic that they will appear in other South East European countries.

In the exchange which the DPNSEE Board had, we expressed concern that the health systems may not have fully in their sight the key populations we are supporting (and people with substance use disorder, especially heroin users, are usually in a weak health conditions), that these populations, being side-lined in the community, may not be well informed about the threat and measures they should take to protect themselves and that our organisations, especially those who provide services to people who use drugs and other connected vulnerable groups should also play they role in overall efforts to fight the problems caused by this epidemic.

DPNSEE invited its member organisations to act locally but also to act together, share experiences, actions and results they achieve.

We see our role in three dimensions:

  1. While the coronavirus is still a threat, you may participate in calming the situation and avoiding panic which may occur, inform people you are supporting about the protective measures against the coronavirus and make all necessary steps internally to be prepared for possible dark scenarios.
  2. If COVID-19 cases appear in your country, you may intensify communication and advising the key populations, activate full spectrum of protection measures for your staff and establish close cooperation with authorities, especially national and local public health authority to advice on necessary steps.
  3. If you find yourself locked in a quarantine area, please fully respect all necessary advices and make sure that your people are safe, but also offer services other than your ordinary actions to support overall efforts of overcoming the critical situation.

DPNSEE invites authorities to pay specific attention to vulnerable populations, which may remain invisible in situations when major efforts are needed for an effective respond to the crisis.

The corona virus COVID-19 is a serious treat, but not more dangerous than usual influence we face every winter. With good preparations and respecting necessary prevention measures, its effects may be reduced and minimised. DPNSEE wants to ensure that people we serve, our staff and societies in general are prepared to fight this challenge.

To read the letter that DPNSEE sent to its member organisations follow this link>>>