Serbia COVID-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment

The UN Country Team in Serbia launched the Socio-economic impact assessment of COVID19 in the country. It is the result of 26 assessments done by all UN agencies working in Serbia and non -resident ones, together with extensive fact finding exercise done jointly with Government.

This assessment provides an in-depth overview of the impact of COVID-19 on key economic and human development perspectives: health, social protection and provision of basic services, jobs and the economy, macroeconomic stability, community cohesion, governance and resilience, and the environment. It is framed around the UN Secretary-General’s framework for an immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19; it promotes more sustainable development and an opportunity to build forward better in the aftermath of the crisis, with an end goal of accelerating achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the “Agenda 2030”).

This report provides a comprehensive overview of COVID19’s impact in Serbia. It captures the situation in the first six months following the outbreak, based on official data and specific surveys conducted by UN agencies and other civil sector research. The report serves to inform the choices we make and actions we take in the coming period. These decisions will determine the outcome of this pandemic and the development of the region for decades to come.

To read the report, follow this link>>>.

 

New Psychoactive Substance use in Eastern Europe

From the EHRA webpage

The phenomenon of new psychoactive substances (NPS) started decades ago with the growth and production of drugs that replicate the effects of controlled drugs (such as amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis and heroin) but avoid legislative control based on different chemical structures.

In recent years, the increasing use of NPS has led to new threats for health of people who use drugs (PWUD) – including overdose, psychotic reactions, high HIV risks due to multiple injections and increased number of sexual contacts. However, in many countries service providers such as harm reduction, drug treatment programs and ambulance services are not prepared to provide PWUD with quality support and counselling to reduce risks of NPS.

In the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) region the situation with NPS is truly alarming and has become one of the major challenges for the national public health systems, local NGOs, communities PWUD.

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) in partnership with School of Law, Swansea University undertook the project “New Psychoactive Substance Use in Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Serbia” to generate a more accurate picture of the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and to assess harm reduction and law enforcement responses to the emerging issues related to use of NPS. Results from this project will supplement scarce international data on the use of NPS in these countries, present a more accurate picture of their use, and provide information to national civil society organizations (CSOs) for political advocacy.

Irena Molnar, a researcher from the non-governmental organization Re Generation (the only CSO that conducts activities aimed at dealing with NPS in Serbia, DPNSEE member organisation), prepared the report for Serbia, the only country involved in the project from South East Europe. Here is a brief overview of it:

The appearance of NPS in Serbia is not a new phenomenon, but their market share is very small. NPS have been talked about for a whole decade, although scientific research and answers to their appearance in the form of special services aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of users, but also the whole society, have not progressed at all.

Among other things, the report examines in detail the actions taken by the state in the context of this issue and formulates recommendations for improvement. For example, in order to improve the response to problems related to the emergence and use of NPS, greater state involvement is needed in terms of adapting to rapid market changes. This means not only putting substances on the banned list, for which Serbia is very up to date, but also improving the entire system.

To read the reports, follow this link>>>.

 

Candlelight Memorial in Serbia

The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, coordinated by the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+), is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness in the world. Started in 1983, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of community organizations in many countries.

The Candlelight Memorial serves as a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. With 38 million people living with HIV today, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination and giving hope to new generations.

Due to extraordinary situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Union of people living with HIV in Serbia held the Memorial on Saturday 30 May. The community members, friends, civil society activists and health institution representatives gathered in the premises of the organisation Philanthropy. We sent our thoughts and prayers to those who died of AIDS, lighted candles over the large red ribbon sign and released red balloons with messages of support for those who live with HIV.

Philanthropy prepared packages with food and hygienic materials for PLHIV in hard living conditions. Priority was given to students, unemployed, people with disability, those with severe medical problems and pensioners with monthly pensions lower than 30.000 RSD (approximately 250 EUR).

Protective material for vulnerable groups

The Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia obtained funds for protective material against coronavirus intended for vulnerable social groups.

Milan Pekić, the Director of the Office, handed out aid packages to representatives of civil society organizations that provide services for prevention, rehabilitation and resocialization of people with drug use disorder on 19 May. Taking into account the circumstances in which they find themselves, as well as the measures prescribed by the medical institutions, the representatives of these organizations received masks, gloves and disinfectants.

The Office for Combating Drugs, as a service of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, tried not to forget the members of endangered categories of citizens in this serious situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They must not remain on the margins of the society in this situations. In accordance with the recommendations of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, we have tried to provide the necessary assistance to those who need it the most, and these are certainly vulnerable groups in the society, including people with drug use disorder. The material was provided to civil society organizations that are in direct contact with over 400 members of vulnerable categories” said the Director of the Office.

Duga active both locally and wider

Our member organisation Duga supports vulnerable populations in their municipality Šabac, but their outreach team is, as usual, active around Serbia.

During first days of the epidemic in Serbia, 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.

The extraordinary situation with coronavirus haven’t prevented Duga outreach team to continue HIV testing in cities around Serbia. On 9 April they have tested interested people in Kragujevac, Central Serbia, while the day after they went to Novi Sad in the Northern province of Vojvodina.

DPNSEE provided Duga with an amount of hygienic material, masks and food for vulnerable populations in their municipality. Duga also managed to get bread as donation from the organisation Human Heart of Šabac.

The Duga team, together with assistant of the Roma coordinator of the city of Šabac Sanja Petrović, distributed 122 humanitarian packages to 251 people in villages of Petlovača, Cerovac, MIšar, Letnjikovac, Pocerski Pričinović, Majur, Varna, Pocerski Metković, Bogosavac, Lipolist and the city of Šabac on 14 and 15 April.

Philanthropy is opening an urgent shelter

Our newest member organisation Philanthropy, in collaboration with the City of Kragujevac, Serbia and the local Centre for Social Work, is opening the urgent shelter for socially vulnerable homeless people in Kragujevac. This service will enable protection of beneficiaries’ health well-being and prevent COVID-19 spreading. Urgent shelter will be provided based on the referrals submitted by the Centre for Social Welfare, according to the Law on Social Protection.

The project for opening the shelter for homeless people was developed for some time and completed just now, at the outbreak of the coronavirus. That helped the local community to offer home to some of those who were in jeopardy now when elderly people, especially those who are in pensioners homes, are in a high risk category.

DPNSEE managed to provide Philanthropy with an amount of hygienic material, masks and clothes for users of their centre.

 

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.

 

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