Conference “Social, mental and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic to the vulnerable populations in SEE”

Following the success of the Conference on protection of vulnerable populations in South East Europe, held on 23 April 2020, the Drug Policy Network South East Europe organises the Conference “Social, mental and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic to the vulnerable populations in SEE: Do we know them and how to recognise and respond to them?

During the coronavirus outbreak, DPNSEE and its member organisations were primarily engaged on providing support to key populations we usually serve, which is mainly related to harm reduction and treatment services, fighting stigma and discrimination, providing legal and social advices, etc. Besides these, we learned that they have a variety of additional needs and that the consequences of the situation will be wider.

One of the conclusions of the Conference we held was that it is necessary to observe social and economic impacts of coronavirus epidemic to key populations in South East Europe. That would help to better define the emerging needs of the populations and provide them with better services.

The aim of the Conference is to discuss the consequences of the coronavirus epidemic on key populations in South East Europe.

The Conference should contribute to defining the indicators for collecting data and producing regional Assessments of social, mental and economic impact of coronavirus epidemic to key populations in South East Europe. The indicators will be observed by the DPNSEE member organisations and published quarterly and annually.

The external inputs will be provided by

  • European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) on the initial results of the study on Impact of COVID-19 on people who use drugs and drug services in the Western Balkans
  • Roberto Perez Gayo, Project Officer at the Correlation – Harm Reduction Network, who will present results of the harm reduction response to the epidemic in Europe.

In addition, we expect inputs from the experts, authorities and civil society organisations from the region.

The Conference will be held via Zoom at the following link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81356455423 on Thursday 16 July 2020 starting at 14:00 CET (15:00 EEST). The conference would last for a maximum of 90 minutes.

The Conference will be recorded in audio and visual format. The recording will be available at the DPNSEE website.

We sincerely hope that you shall join us, contribute to understand the situation in the region better and help define reliable indicators.

 

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.

 

I think we did a good job

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.

Milutin emphasized that the civil society organisations from the region have done a good job before and during the first period of the outbreak. The result is that we haven’t noticed any infection among users of our services.

Irena emphasized that people who are on treatment are in an additional risk because they have to travel, sometimes daily, to get the treatment or social care.

The article, in Serbia, is available here>>>

Useful and fruitful Conference held

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.

We heard a lot of good stories about work done in the region on supporting vulnerable populations and several interesting ideas for actions to ensure that harm reduction services are sustainable during and after the COVID’19 epidemic.


DPNSEE prepared background documents for the Conference which are available at the recent news on our website>>>.

Here are updated documents, with some fresh information from countries, and the Minutes from the Conference.

  • Overview of the situation with coronavirus COVID-19 in SEE with two annexes (available here>>> with both annexes or here>>> as a separate document):
  • Annex 1 – Information received from countries of South East Europe during conference calls (available here>>>)
  • Annex 2 – DPNSEE activities during the coronavirus outbreak (available here>>>)

Minutes from the Conference are available here>>>.

Presentation from Mr Miloš Stojanović, Regional Project Manager at UNODC, Head of Programme Office in Serbia is available here>>>.

 

Conference on protection of vulnerable populations in South East Europe

Spread of the coronavirus and illness officially known as COVID-19 around the world, in Europe and in the region of South East Europe has a devastating effect on general population as well as on people who use drugs and other connected vulnerable populations (homeless people, sex workers, LGBTI, MSM, people living with HIV and many others).

DPNSEE reacted early on the information about possible outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe sending a Letter to member organisations inviting them to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak with brief instructions, publishing the Public appeal to protect vulnerable groups from coronavirus COVID-19, sharing and translating instructions and advice on coronavirus and keeping contacts with our member organisations and international partners. We regularly update news from South East Europe – they are available at the News section of our website.

We held conference calls with our member organisations by countries from South East Europe last weeks. We heard a lot of good stories about their work and ideas to share.

Analysing the situation and discussing potential developments during and after the outbreak, the DPNSEE Board decided to hold the on-line Conference on protection of vulnerable populations in South East Europe. The Conference will be held 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.

The aim of the Conference is to contribute to ensuring the sustainability of services for key populations during and after the coronavirus epidemic. As stated in the UNODC document Suggestions about treatment, care and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorder in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic “it is important to ensure the continuity of adequate access to health and social services for people who use drugs and with drug use disorders and provide the continuum of care required as described in the International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders (UNODC/WHO, 2020) to the best extent possible also in times of crisis”.

Besides our members and other civil society organisations from the region and wider, we invite to the Conference national drug agencies and health institutions, international organisations partners and donors.

The Conference will be held via Zoom at the following link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86072202401 on Thursday 23 April 2020 starting at 14:00 CET (15:00 EEST). The conference would last for a maximum of two hours.

The Agenda will include two items:

  1. Overview of situation with coronavirus among vulnerable populations in South East Europe.
  2. Proposed actions to ensure sustainability of services for key populations during and after the coronavirus epidemic.

The background documents for the Conference we plan to prepare and post here in the next few days include:

  • Overview of the situation with coronavirus COVID-19 in SEE with two annexes (available here>>> with both annexes or here>>> as a separate document):
  • Annex 1 – Information received from countries of South East Europe during conference calls (available here>>>)
  • Annex 2 – DPNSEE activities during the coronavirus outbreak (available here>>>)
  • Draft list of actions and measures to ensure sustainability of services for key populations during and after the coronavirus epidemic (in progress).

In preparations for the Conference, we shall also use and refer to the documents which are also produced and promoted internationally, including those from UNODC, UNAIDS, EMCDDA and other national and international intergovernmental and civil society organisations.

We sincerely hope that you shall join us in this effort to make sure that a truly inclusive universal health coverage grounded on rights-based laws, policies and procedures is achieved by prioritizing and protecting vulnerable groups.

 

Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus

Did organized crime groups continue with their activity at the time of Coronavirus, which trends in the criminal activities in the Western Balkans can be noticed in the first six weeks of the pandemic and which scenarios can be envisaged for the future?

Saša Đorđević

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.

The report states that “The region has experienced a small increase in the price of marijuana, which is still very much present on the market. The same applies to stimulant drugs” and that “People with drug and alcohol problems, persons living with HIV, those who are susceptible to stress, citizens with mental health problems, pensioners, the poor, the homeless and recently released prisoners are the biggest potential victims of crime during this pandemic crisis.”

Scenarios envisaged for the future include the one that “There will be a decline in the supply and quality of illegal drugs. The price of heroin substitutes is expected to increase. It is certain that criminal groups will find alternative ways of distributing narcotics and other illegal products in urban areas, using mobile technologies and couriers, but also corruption of law enforcement. It is possible that criminal groups will shift their manufacturing and logistics activities to smaller towns and rural areas, where they will be less visible.

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.

Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) is an independent think-tank publicly advocating human, national, regional and international security based on democracy and respect for human rights.

The report is available in English (Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus – early findings) or in Serbian (Kriminal na Zapadnom Balkanu u doba korone: prva zapažanja).

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>>>