2020 Global Day of Action – Getting ready!

Last year, thousands of activists in 261 cities of 92 countries joined arms to promote policies and practices that centre solidarity, reduce harm and protect human rights. The 2020 Global Day of Action is all about accelerating momentum for reform. And, to do so, we need each other.

The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) have launched the 2020 Support. Don’t Punish Global Day of Action’s “Call for Expressions of Interest”. If you’re thinking about joining the 2020 Global Day of Action, fill the form available online or in Word format and apply.

As DPNSEE will coordinate activities of the campaign in South East Serbia, it would be great if you would also send us the information about your plans.

Should you need inspiration or guidance, check out the repository with hundreds of activities organised in previous years.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, 17 April 2020.

An important information:

At the moment of drafting, over 150,000 cases of COVID-19 have been detected across the globe. It is impossible to accurately estimate how the pandemic will evolve in the coming weeks and months, but we know it will disproportionately affect many of the populations at the heart of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign. We believe we have a responsibility to do our best to keep ourselves and others healthy. When completing the form, we invite you to consider alternative plans in case the pandemic impedes the realisation of your initially-planned activities.

More information is available from the Support. Don’t Punish webpage 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>>>

Harm Reduction @Work

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network announced that the Fifth European Harm Reduction Conference will be held from 4 to 6 November 2020 in Prague, Czechia.

The Conference Motto is

Harm Reduction @Work

innovation, community & political leadership

The Conference will be organised by the Correlation European Harm Reduction Network in close cooperation with the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Czech organization Sananim. DPNSEE supports and endorses the Conference.

The 5th European Harm Reduction Conference targets professionals from the community working in the broader area of harm reduction, policy-makers and politicians, researchers, and media representatives. Registrations are already open.

The conference will present the latest harm reduction developments and good innovative practices. It will discuss drug policy and its implications on people who use drugs and other groups, including not only sex workers but also people living with HIV.

The meeting intends to broaden the view on harm reduction while addressing related issues such as social inclusion and homelessness. Finally, the conference provides an appropriate platform to create links and synergies between national and European stakeholders.

The conference programme is currently under development. The European Network of People Who Use Drugs, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, the European Monitoring Centre Drugs and Drug Addiction and other vital stakeholders from Europe are joining us in this effort.

Follow all developments about the Conference following this link>>>

DPNSEE General Assembly and SEE dialogue on drugs 2020

The regular annual DPNSEE General Assembly will be held on 20 February 2020 in Belgrade. The key topic of the Assembly will be finalising the strategic plan of the Network. The Assembly will include usual agenda point on reporting and planning the work in 2020.

Following the success of the first dialogue between national authorities and civil society organisations held in 2018, the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and Drug Policy Network South East Europe organize the second meeting of national authorities responsible for drug policy and civil society organisations from South East Europe. The meeting will be held on Friday 21 February 2020 in Belgrade, in the Palace of Serbia.

The aim of the meeting is to discuss about issues of importance for drug policy and reflect on the cooperation between authorities and civil society organisations at the national and regional level and perspectives of future cooperation.

The key topics for this meeting will be:

  1. Decriminalisation of drug consumption and possession for personal use – challenges and experiences
  2. Role of civil society in drug policy

Governmental representatives and civil society organisations from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia will have an opportunity to hear results from decriminalisation processes in Italy, Portugal and The Netherlands, discuss pros and cons for drug decriminalisation in countries of the South East Europe region, share their experiences and examples of successful inter-sectorial cooperation and propose recommendations for improvements.

Representatives of ministries of health, justice, social services and interior of the Government of Serbia, Directorate of Police, Republic Public Prosecutor, Office for Supporting Civil Society, other civil society organisations, embassies, and international organisations are also invited to the meeting.

 

Drug misconceptions in Serbia and in the world

DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević had a long interview for Talas – Serbia based media portal “about politics, economy and ideas”. That was an exceptional opportunity for a long and comprehensive presentation of an open and active approach the Network has on drug policy.

The issues involved included:

  • What are the biggest misconceptions about drugs that exist in public?
  • How do laws regulate drugs in Serbia? Which changes are needed?
  • Does the current “War on drugs” produce results and what are the alternative approaches?
  • What does the application of the law look like in this field?
  • What is the principle of opportunity and how often is it used?
  • What is the principle of harm reduction?
  • How dangerous is the stigmatization of users and how do we deal with it?
  • What does rehabilitation look like in Serbia?
  • Is marijuana legalization an economic opportunity for Serbia?

The interview, unfortunately only in Serbia, is available here

Strategic planning to improve sustainability of HIV prevention services

The Alliance for Public Health engaged a group of experts to perform a brief assessment of the latest experiences in the Serbia on financing civil society organisations with national funds, including the Global Fund national grant, and to plan on the national level for the sustainability strategy and concrete steps.

The experts visited Serbia from 16 to 20 December and held a serial of meetings with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Health Insurance Fund, CSOs and other stakeholders. At the last day of the mission, the concluding stakeholder consultation with presentation of preliminary findings was conducted.

The visit was organized by DPNSEE member organization Timočki omladinski centar, who is the national lead of the multi-country project implemented by the consortium led by the Alliance. Representatives of DPNSEE and our other member organisations Prevent and Duga also contributed at the meetings.

Our initiative presented at the Global Fund Board meeting

The Developing Country NGO Delegation at the Global Fund published a statement with the 42nd Board Meeting highlights, including 8 important matters they pushed for at the meeting, with ways that civil society can move them forward. The statement is available following this link>>>

The initiative of the three regional networks: Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, Eurasian Harm reduction Network and Drug Policy Network South East Europe to respond to the critical situation concerning the sustainability of harm reduction services in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Romania was among the issues that the Delegation raised at the Global Fund Board meeting. It is mentioned in the point 4 of the statement:

Addressing civil society concerns: The Developing Country NGO brought to the Board and bilateral meetings concerns raised by civil society organisations including those by nearly 100 NGOs about the ending of multi-country grants in West Africa; cases of the failed transitions and interruption of services for key populations, including the lack of funding for harm reduction programs in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Romania and Bulgaria; and exploring next steps to ensure access to health services, treatment and care in Venezuela.

We hope that the Global Fund will make some concrete steps in helping us find a quick response to the urgent needs and building a sustainable solution in these countries.