DPNSEE appeal to the governments in countries of the region

On the occasion of 26th June, the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, as part of the Support Don’t Punish campaign’s ‘Global Day of Action’, the Drug Policy Network South East Europe and its member organisations appeal to the governments in countries of the region to ensure that people who use drugs are safe from discrimination and enjoy care which is needed.

It is time to leave behind harmful politics, ideology and prejudice and to prioritise health and human rights over incarceration and futile efforts to achieve a ‘drug-free world. It is time to support, and not punish people who use drugs and other non-violent drug offenders.

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

 

Support. Don’t Punish activities in 2021

Support. Don’t Punish is a global grassroots-centred initiative in support of harm reduction and drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. The campaign seeks to put harm reduction on the political agenda by strengthening the mobilisation capacity of affected communities and their allies, opening dialogue with policy makers, and raising awareness among the media and the public.

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe around the Global Day of Action 26 June – which is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

In 2021, we shall participate in activities of the #DrugDecrim month to contribute to fighting stigmatisation and criminalisation of people that use drugs.

The campaign 2021 shall have in South East Europe:

  • 8 countries
  • 14+ cities
  • 12 organisations
  • 50+ activities
  • 25 accounts on social networks

Activities have already started in some of the countries of the region.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic which is still hitting the region and the world, DPNSEE will not organise the traditional kick-off event in 2021.

The DPNSEE Board decided to issue a public appeal on harm reduction crisis, following a very critical situation in which are harm reduction services in several countries of South East Europe.

To find out what is planned in your city or country, follow this link>>>.

Information about the global campaign is available from the website http://supportdontpunish.org.

 

ARAS alarms on harm reduction crisis in Romania

ARAS – The Romanian Anti-AIDS Association sent an appeal to stakeholders in Romania to join forces in finding solution for the harm reduction crisis which hardly hits this country. Here is the translation of the appeal.

 

ARAS – The Romanian Anti-AIDS Association invites on this occasion to 21 days of action “Support, Don’t Punish”, in which we will contact the decision-makers at central and local level, the executive and legislative bodies, and we will initiate a public dialogue around this topic.

 We are inviting all stakeholders to take a position on the issues raised, to open the communication for solutions and to find support in initiating concrete actions to remedy this situation, which has become chronic.

 For a better explanation of the context and history of the chronic lack of national / local funding in risk prevention and harm reduction services, we send you, below, some relevant information and we are at your disposal for any further questions.

 In the last 20+ years, ARAS has provided harm reduction services for intravenous drug users in Bucharest, based on the recommendations of UNAIDS and WHO and within the limits of available funds. During all this time, we drew the attention of public institutions that, in order for these services to be constant and efficient, they must be supported by policies in the field and funding from the state budget, both at the central and local level.

 At present, ARAS implements harm reduction activities (testing and counselling, referral and support, social assistance), but does not have the funds necessary to provide prevention materials for injecting drug users (sterile syringes) and to cover the real need in the field. The pandemic caused by Covid-19 also strongly affected our area of intervention, especially access to testing, which decreased dramatically, as well as access to treatment and medical services. At the Titan Community Centre (opened by ARAS in 2008) we can no longer carry out harm reduction services, such as offering 1 ml syringes (which cannot be found in pharmacies either), because of lack of funds.

 Therefore, injecting drug users in Bucharest reuse syringes or share them with other users. The result is that HIV infection and viral hepatitis are already spreading, affecting again this category of vulnerable people and hence the community as a whole.

 We remind that the national authorities (Ministry of Health, National Anti-Drug Agency) have always relied on the support of external funding contracted directly by non-governmental organizations and which practically ceased to exist in 2020; still, the responsibility for the health of the citizens is with these institutions, and not with the NGOs.

 We are also stressing that many of the programs supported by public funds are exclusively for people who have an identity card, and some only for those who have health insurance. When public institutions have funded services implemented by NGOs, the contracts contained some limitations that make them completely inappropriate for working with vulnerable people. Moreover, local authorities do not include or budget in their strategies (clearly and explicitly) activities to prevent HIV and HBV and HCV infections, tuberculosis, dedicated to vulnerable people.

 Another important drawback: the National AIDS Plan drafted within a project funded by the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been waiting to be approved by the responsible institutions since 2017 (!!).

 ARAS has drawn attention numerous times on these crises and on the optimization of access to services, and we even went to court (together with three intravenous drug users) against the Directorate of Public Health, which is supposed to give syringes for harm reduction. We lost our case and at present we are preparing our file for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

 Romania is part of the global network International Drug Policy Consortium that promotes the objective and open debate on drug policies, and Bucharest is a signatory of the Fast Track cities initiative. The National Anti-Drug Strategy includes the principles of the European Union Strategy on Drugs. Still, the reality proves the contrary.

 On this occasion, we would like to open a dialogue on the need to update these national policies and strategies in order to align with international initiatives in this field, to secure the necessary budget for harm reduction and for prevention in general, and thus to promote the “support, don’t punish” approaches, both in the official documents and in the field.

 

Regional meeting “Children who use drugs”

The regional meeting on “Children Who Use Drugs“, organised on 28 April by the Healthy Options Project Skopje (HOPS), was dedicated to exchanging experiences and sharing good practices in the region related to the problems and challenges faced by countries and civil society organizations in working with children and young people who use drugs, such as the availability of health and social programs for young people and children who use drugs.

Presentations on the topic had Liljana Ignjatova, Ph.D., Professor at the Faculty of Medicine in Skopje, Department of Psychiatry, and Head of the Centre for Prevention and Treatment of Drug Addiction, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Eranda Berisha from Centre for Social Work Pristina, Kosovo*, Skerdi Zahaj, consultant in “Initiative for Social Change” ARSIS from Albania, Marija Mijović social worker at the NGO Juventas from Montenegro and Denis Dedajić from NGO Margina from Bosnia Herzegovina.

From the presentations of all speakers, it can be concluded that the rate of children and young people using drugs and other psychoactive substances is increasing. Health and other relevant institutions do not have an adequate answer to this question. In all countries in the region there is a complete lack of appropriate treatment programs for children who use drugs.

Recommendations from the meeting include:

  • Use good practices from countries where there are programs to treat and care for children and young people who use drugs
  • Prepare and adopt appropriate programs for the treatment of children and young people who use drugs
  • Strengthen partnerships between CSOs and health and social institutions in policymaking and provision of services for children using drugs

The project “The Role of CSOs in the Western Balkans in Providing Social Services and Preventing Social Exclusion” is funded by SIDA – Swedish International Development Agency, through the Balkan Civil Society Development Network.

The project is implemented regionally in six Western Balkan countries, including ARSIS Youth Support Social Organization (Albania), Asocijacija Margina (Bosnia and Herzegovina), HOPS (Northern Macedonia), Qendra Labyrinth (Kosovo), Prevent (Serbia), NVO Juventas (Montenegro).

 

735 drug induced deaths in Serbia since 2008

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe held the promotion of the Analysis of the data on drug-induced deaths in Serbia 2008 – 2019 on 10 March 2021 with the support of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia.

The presentation with bilingual data (Serbian and English) is available following this link>>>.

More than 30 representatives of governmental organisations, civil society organisations, media and international organisation from Serbia and other countries participated.

The discussion emphasized the need to better report deaths and analyse the data so that we may better protect people who use drugs from overdose and loosing life.

The Analysis is available following this link>>>.

 

Drug-induced deaths in Serbia

The Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Republic of Serbia and the Drug Policy Network South East Europe (DPNSEE) invite you to the promotion of the analysis of the data on drug-induced deaths in Serbia 2008 – 2019.

DPNSEE has prepared the analysis using statistic about the drug-induced deaths managed by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia. The data used are segmented using codes of the causes of death, agreed with the Ministry of Health and the Institute for Public Health “Dr Milan Jovanović Batut”, in accordance with the standard protocol of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The statistics include annual tables presenting number of those passed away by different indicators: gender, age, location, substance that caused death, consequence of long term use or accidentally, etc.

The presentation will be held in Serbian with translation into English via Zoom at the following link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86941798054 on Wednesday 10 March 2021 starting at 11:00 CET. The presentation would last for approximately 60 minutes.

For all additional information, please contact us using followong email addresses kabinet@kzbpd.gov.rs or office@dpnsee.org.

 

Let’s talk about drugs

Taken from the IDPC webpage

In June-July 2020 Rights Reporter Foundation, YODA, Re Generation, Young Wave and Center for Humane Policy conducted an assessment of drug education in Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Serbia based on the methodology developed by EHRA within the LEt’s Talk about drugs – new MEthods of communication with youth – LET ME project funded by the European Commission (ERASMUS+ program). The goal of the study was to assess existing drug education and its effectiveness, look at what information on drugs is available and how it is perceived by young people, examine the methods and tools used by different actors to talk about drugs with youth, and gather best practices.

The stakeholders interviewed—young people and representatives of harm reduction, prevention, and youth organizations—all agree that existing drug education is ineffective and fails to address the needs and patterns of drug use among young people.

The report will be used to design and create the manual, but also for the advocacy activities related to the promotion of prevention and harm reduction services in the youth work.

The reports are available in English and all national languages following this link>>>.

 

International Conference on Drug Regulation Models

Our colleagues from the Healthy Project Options Skopje (HOPS) and Coalition Margins are organizing International Conference on Drug Regulation Models. The Conference will be organized on 18th and 19th November 2020, online, in form of panel discussions and expert presentations.

The conference is organized as part of the project “Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities“, supported by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia.

This interesting event is going to present the new Comparative analysis of the drug regulation models in Netherlands and Portugal. It will have foreign experts presentations such us: João Castel-Branco Goulão, General Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (SICAD), Director, Portugal; Tomas Zabransky, M.D., Ph.D., University professor, Czech Republic; Hans Abma, senior policy adviser, International Criminal Cooperation, Ministry of Justice, Netherlands; Thomas Zosel, Chief Inspector of Crime, Drug and Traffic prevention (E4), Police Headquarters Frankfurt am Main. Additionally, the Conference will engage domestic representatives from different institutions (police, judiciary, CSO’s, ministries, politicians, health institutions, community members) in discussion what can be done next in North Macedonia in the area concerned and give the topic an importance in the country.

In order to join the Conference, you have to register on the following link. Deadline for registration to the Conference is 16 November 2020 at 17.00 CET.

The Invitation with the agenda of the Conference is available following this link>>>. We hope you shall join and contribute. Please, don’t hesitate to share the information to your colleagues and partners.

 

Prevention of COVID-19 among key populations

Healthy Options Project Skopje (HOPS) implements several activities in scope of the project “Prevention of COVID-19 among drug users, sex workers and their families” financially supported by the Government of the Republic of Northern Macedonia, through the Program for financing the program activities of associations and foundations for measures to deal with COVID -19 crisis. These include:

  • Material assistance for drug users, sex workers and their families
  • Distribution of informative-educational materials for prevention of COVID-19
  • Education among our users of COVID-19 protection services
  • Drugs – immunostimulants
  • Protective gear
  • Hygienic materials for smooth operation of the work in the drop-in centres of HOPS

In the past three months, 150 hygiene kits and food packages were provided and distributed, of which 135 to their service users and their families and 15 packages for homeless people or people who use drugs and sex workers who do not have a permanent place of residence.

In addition to providing material assistance, the HOPS team conducted 160 trainings for prevention of COVID-19 (141 trainings between PWUD and 59 trainings with SW) and distributed 462 informative printed materials containing tips for protection against corona virus.

Also, thanks to this project, the HOPS drop-in centres are equipped with hygienic materials and protective equipment for the staff who work in the centres and conduct field activities.

 

Use of new psychoactive substances in WB/SEE – challenges, needs and opportunities

Our member organisation NGO Re Generation, with support of Eurasian Harm Reduction Association, ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey and DPNSEE, invite you to participate in an online meeting “Use of new psychoactive substances in WB/SEE – challenges, needs and opportunities”.

This year, EHRA and the School of Law, Swansea University undertook the project “New Psychoactive Substance Use in Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Serbia” aiming 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. In addition, EHRA funded project #DAZNAMŠTARADIM implemented by NGO Re Generation. Both of the actions generated a more detailed picture on what are the specific issues related to NPS in Serbia. We believe that these issues should be communicated and discussed among CSOs in the Western Balkan/SEE region that work with and represent affected communities.

The meeting will be held via Zoom on Friday 06 November 2020 starting at 11:00 CET. The meeting will last approximately two hours. You can access it by following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86130730814.

The invitation for the meeting with more details is available following this link>>>.