Training for the State commission for combating drugs

HOPS – Healthy Options Skopje, on 7 and 8 October 2019 organized an educational workshop on capacity building for the members of the Inter-ministerial state committee for combating illicit production, trade and drug abuse in the Republic of North Macedonia.

This educational workshop was organized as part of the regional project “Sustainability of services for key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” supported by the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The activities in the country are implemented by three partner organizations: Stronger together, HERA and HOPS.

The purpose of this workshop was to update the members of the Committee on harm reduction programs, as well as to initiate a coordination process for the preparation of the new national drug strategy which should be developed by end of 2020.

The lecturers of the workshop were: Vlatko Dekov, Advocacy manager and harm reduction expert at HOPS, Lidija Savić, Pharmacist and Chair of the Inter-ministerial committee on drugs, Heidi Sterjova Simonović, project coordinator and Dr Darko Kostovski, Psychiatrist specializing in the field of drug addiction treatment.

DPNSEE Board meeting

The Drug Policy Network in South East Europe Board held a regular board meeting in Skopje from 28 to 28 September 2019. All 7 Board members and Executive Director participated.

Significant part of the meeting was dedicated to developing DPNSEE strategic plan. Using the results of the Strategic workshop held in May, the Board worked on the text of a stagey document which will be shared with the member organisations for consultations, to be completed at the General Assembly.

The Board discussed activities held in between the two meetings and projects which are being implemented or planned for the future.

The tentative days for the annual General Assembly are 16 to 18 December 2019. The Assembly will be held in Belgrade.

The Board proposes that all member organisations should re-affirm their acceptance of the DPNSEE Mission and Vision and formally sign it.

The Board discussed and adopted the proposed DPNSEE Travel and Expense Policy and Website privacy policy.

The Board was informed about critical situations of harm reduction services in Bulgaria and Bosnia Herzegovina and discussed potential ways to help member organisations.

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.

Drug users are discriminated and without a proper treatment program

HOPS – Healthy Options Skopje hosted the “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign activities for the fifth time. The focus of HOPS campaign in 2019 is on the quality of treatment programs in Macedonia. The situation in Kisela Voda community is currently critical, with the Daily Centre for Prevention and Treatment of Addictions.

The campaign Support. Don’t Punish was launched on Facebook and HOPS’s website. They designed and made 5 illustrated messages. Focus groups with drug users took place previously, sharing messages for quality treatment from the discussion. Short videos were posted on Facebook and HOPS’s website. Previously, two videos were shot on sharing the weakness of the drug users’ treatment programs.

press conference during which the key findings from the research on the quality of treatment programs were presented.

At the event in the City Park on 26 June, artist Dreadpen painted graphite. At the same time citizens discussed and delivered messages of support and equal treatment for all. Also, appeals were addressed to the authorities to find a solution for psychosocial support which, besides the medical therapy that now exists, is very important in the treatment process.

Through the research “Quality of addiction treatment programs in Macedonia“, HOPS among other things found out that about 1.1% of the citizens in Macedonia tried opioid drugs and the number of people who use them by injection is estimated at around 6,800. “Only 27% of people who inject drugs in Macedonia are included in treatment programs for addicts, which is below the European average of 50%” states the analysis.

Apart from the dominant substitution therapy with methadone and buprenorphine, other treatment approaches are not available within the public health facilities and there are no programs for the treatment of non-opiate addictions except for alcohol.

There is also a serious deficit of staff with adequate training, especially psychiatrists, in treatment programs throughout the country.

Have a look at the video taken during the campaign

Лекувањето е право, а не привилегија

„Лекувањето е право, а не привилегија!“, но дали сите граѓани уживаат во тоа право? ХОПС по петти пат беше дел од глобалната кампања „Support. Don’t Punish“, а фокусот годинава беше квалитетот на програмите на лекување

Gepostet von Види Вака am Donnerstag, 4. Juli 2019

Hotspots of organized crime in the Western Balkans

A new report by Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime has identified locations in these countries that are hotspots for organised crime.

Rather than focusing on illicit markets, flows of commodities or particular criminal groups, this report looks at places of interest: hotspots of organized crime in the Western Balkans. It looks at the characteristics of these hotspots, then provides a granular analysis of particular border crossings, intersections or regions of vulnerability. What makes these places particularly vulnerable? Why are they attractive to criminals? After discussing these questions, the report connects the dots between these locations to identify possible links and patterns that tell us more about the geography of crime in the region.

Regional illicit flows

To contextualize these organized-crime hotspots, the report provides an overview of the current situation in the Western Balkans, as well as some general information on the main illicit flows. It then looks at hotspots close to border or (internal) boundary crossings.

The other main section of the report focuses on major intersections of organized crime in the Western Balkans – mostly bigger cities (particularly capitals), coastal towns and places where major highways intersect. Maps are provided to show the hotspots as well as key traffic arteries. Amid these assessments, the report takes a deeper dive into vulnerable locations, such as Sarajevo, three ports along the Montenegrin coast, northern Kosovo as well as the triangular region where North Macedonia meets south Serbia and Kosovo.

One key observation of this report, which is important to highlight upfront, is that illicit flows through ports, cities and border crossings in the Western Balkans are enabled by a political economy of crime that is deeply entrenched in most countries of the region. The report therefore takes a look at the ecosystem of crime that creates an environment in which illicit activity can flourish. It concludes with a prognosis of potential future hotspots of crime.

The report is available in EnglishAlbanianBosnian and Macedonian

Youth Studies South East Europe

The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) published reports on the experiences and aspirations of youth in Southeast Europe. The FES carried out a representative region-wide survey on a sample of more than 10.000 young people aged 14 – 29 from ten countries in Southeast Europe in early 2018.

“FES Youth Studies Southeast Europe 2018/2019” is an international youth research project carried out simultaneously in ten countries in Southeast Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. The main objective of the surveys has been to identify, describe and analyse attitudes of young people and patterns of behaviour in contemporary society.

A broad range of issues were addressed, including young peoples’ experiences and aspirations in different realms of life, such as education, employment, political participation, family relationships, leisure and use of information and communications technology, but also their values, attitudes and beliefs.

Findings are presented in ten national and one regional study and its accompanying policy papers, which have been published in both English and the respective national languages.

The most important results are grouped under headlines:

  • A wish to belong to Europe
  • Migration and mobility do not have to be zero-sum
  • Fighting corruption as a crime, not as a concept
  • Employment discourse shifting towards the quality of work
  • A different kind of ‘political’…
  • …which has to do with ‘the social’
  • Give youth a say in Europeanisation

To download the regional study and its accompanying policy papers following this link>>>

You can read the national studies at this webpage.

#SoS_project launched

Alliance for Public Health, leading a regional consortium uniting Network of People living with HIV/AIDS 100% Life, Central-Asian PLH Association and Eurasian Key Populations Health Network (EKHN), manages the multi-country project ‘Sustainability of services for key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia region’, funded by the Global Fund in amount up to USD 13 million. The project will be implemented throughout 2019-2021 and aims to reduce the HIV epidemic in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia and South East Europe regions through accelerating progress on Fast-Track by 2020 and to ensure the sustainability of HIV services for key populations in 14 countries of the regions: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The project launch meeting was held on 26 March 2019 in Kyiv, Ukraine. It gathered all implementing partners, regional and global stakeholders, donors active in the region to discuss the program approaches and plans, get strategies advise and coordinate with other regional initiatives to maximize impact of investment.

At the project coordination meeting on 27 March all regional consortium members, project sub-recipients, implementing and technical partners in the region to discuss and coordinate the concrete plans and timelines for project activities among the implementers.

To achieve the expected savings, the project will develop strategies for optimizing the cost of ART regimens, which will lead to a decrease in the average cost of first-line ART. Advocacy activities will also be carried out aimed at reducing prices for ARVs and using savings to finance the needs of prevention and care services for the Key Groups and PLHIV. In addition, work to optimize clinical guidelines for ART, a list of drugs in accordance with WHO guidelines is planned, as well as advocacy to include countries in voluntary licensing and registration of generic manufacturers.

Andriy Klepikov, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Health, said that almost half of these funds ($ 5.6 million) will go to the advocacy of the reduction of prices for ARV drugs and optimization of procurement mechanisms.  Another quarter of the project budget ($ 3.2 million) is planned for budget advocacy. $ 1.6 million is provided for the removal of legal barriers, the same amount for project management. Another $ 1 million will go to operational research.

“The idea is not only to throw in some initiatives, but simultaneously with such interventions to launch operational research, which will help identify and prove their effectiveness,” explained Klepikov. – “It worked, in particular, in Ukraine. But we would not want other countries to take it on faith. In each country for advocacy, before the Ministry of Health will start funding, it is important to get a serious evidence base, which is collected through operational research”.

DPNSEE member organisations Cazas and Timok Youth Centre will be sub-recipients of the project in Montenegro and Serbia, while HOPS is involved in project implementation in North Macedonia.

Legal needs and access to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia

Our member organisation HOPS published the Research report: Legal needs and access to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia.

This research represents the first effort to assess the legal needs and paths to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia. It was conducted at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 using a mixed-methods research approach. The quantitative phase included 250 respondents chosen through stratified random sampling, out of which 169 inject/injected drugs, and 107 are/were engaged in sex work over the last three and a half years. The qualitative research phase, on the other hand, was comprised of focus group discussions with 69 respondents from both communities, as well as individual or group interviews with 7 representatives from competent institutions.

The research results showed that people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia experience ten times more non-trivial justiciable problems in comparison to the general population in the country. In addition, low level of legal literacy, lack of trust in institutions and systemic discrimination, among other factors, prevent citizens from these communities to seek protection of their rights and delivery of justice through institutional mechanisms. Such circumstances confirm the communities’ high vulnerability and underline the need for advancement of their access to information, legal advice and protection.

The findings pinpoint the necessity to educate people who inject drugs and sex workers on existing institutional mechanisms for protection of rights and delivery of justice, and motivate them to take actions towards legal resolution. Since citizens from these groups trust civil society organizations the most, CSOs are the first instance where they seek free legal advice and aid. Hence, services offered to these communities by civil society organizations need to be developed further, while also advancing the cooperation between the organizations and the competent institutions, including introduction of functional referral mechanisms.

Recommendations of the report also include that overcoming prejudices against people who inject drugs and sex workers in institutions responsible for ensuring the legal order, such as the police, Legal Needs and Access to Justice for People Who Inject Drugs and Sex Workers in Macedonia prosecutors, courts and prisons is crucial. This could be achieved with temporary measures, such as trainings, field and study visits, but also through more sustainable systemic changes in the process of professional training of employees in the aforementioned institutions. Similar measures could be useful for health and social workers

To read full report follow this link>>>>. Version of the report in Macedonian is available following this link >>>>.

Global Fund eligibility list 2019

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has recently published its updated country eligibility list for 2019. The list reflects the eligibility determinations for the year 2019 (a non-allocation year) and is for information purposes only. Allocations are made once every three years following the outcomes of the Global Fund’s replenishment The 2020 Eligibility List will determine which country components are eligible for an allocation for the 2020-2022 allocation period.

SEE countries affected by changes are Bulgaria, Kosovo*, North Macedonia and Romania. Montenegro and Serbia remain eligible for HIV disease component due to high disease burden.

Bulgaria and Romania may be eligible for an allocation for HIV/AIDS for non-governmental or civil society organizations if there are demonstrated barriers to providing funding for interventions for key populations, as supported by the country’s epidemiology for the 2020-2022 allocation period.

Kosovo is newly classified as an Upper-Middle Income country based on the latest three-year average of GNI per capita data. As Kosovo’s HIV/AIDS and TB burden are ‘Not High’, both the HIV/AIDS and TB components are now eligible for Transition Funding for the 20202022 allocation period.

North Macedonia‘s HIV/AIDS disease burden classification changed to ‘Low’ in 2018 to ‘High’ in the 2019 Eligibility List, resulting in one determination of eligibility. Country components must be eligible for two consecutive eligibility determinations to be classified as eligible on the Eligibility List.

According to the GF Eligibility Policy “Upper-middle income countries meeting the disease burden criteria, but some may be eligible for an allocation for HIV/AIDS to directly finance non-governmental and civil society organizations, if there are demonstrated barriers to providing funding for interventions for key populations, as supported by the country’s epidemiology. Eligibility for funding under this provision will be assessed by the Secretariat as part of the decision-making process for allocations. As part of its assessment, the Secretariat, in consultation with UN and other partners as appropriate, will look at the overall human rights environment of the context with respect to key populations and specifically whether there are laws or policies which influence practices and seriously limit and/or restrict the provision of evidence-informed interventions for such populations”.

To read full document with the eligibility list follow this link>>>>