COVID Technical Assistance Directory

Known as C19RM, the COVID-19 Response Mechanism supports countries to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on programs to fight HIV, TB and malaria, and initiates urgent improvements in health and community systems.

All countries, including regional/multi-country recipients, that are currently receiving funding from the Global Fund, are eligible to receive C19RM funding.

More about the COVID-19 Response Mechanism is available following this link>>>.

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), being the host of the EECA Regional Platform for Communication and Coordination supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund), has collected information concerning the availability of HIV, TB and COVID-related technical support (TS) for non-governmental (NGOs) an community-based (CBOs) organizations in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA).

Information presented in this document was provided, and confirmed, by the organizations included and collected between February and April 2021.

To read this technical assistance directory, follow this link>>>.

 

Changes at the drugs market in the Western Balkans

To improve understanding of the impact of the pandemic and associated measures on the drug market in the Western Balkans, the European Drugs Agency (EMCDDA) published ad hoc publication Illicit drug markets and supply in the Western Balkans: Impact of COVID-19.

This report provides the main results of studies conducted using the trendspotter methodology to explore the impact of the pandemic and associated measures on the drug markets and supply in the Western Balkans.

Reported here are the findings of a rapid multidisciplinary expert opinion study to review the possible impact of COVID-19 on the operation of the drug market. The current situation is extremely dynamic.

The findings of the study should be interpreted with caution as they are based substantially on expert opinions gathered from law enforcement sources between September and October 2020, when the research was conducted. In general, very limited statistical or research data is available in the Western Balkan region on drug markets during this period. Therefore, the conclusions are necessarily preliminary and will require review as more data sources become available.

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

 

Grassroots Organisations at the Forefront of Community Solidarity Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

EU TACSO 3 project, in cooperation with Trag Foundation from Serbia, are organising an on-line P2P event under the title “One Year On: Grassroots Organisations at the Forefront of Community Solidarity Response to COVID-19 Pandemic”. The exchange is being organized as a follow-up to the EU TACSO 3 Regional Meet-up on Emergency Response from June 2020. The aim is to complement the discussion on the consequences on civil society and society in general and how to deal with post-crisis patterns in the future. The two-day on-line P2P event will provide space for peer-to-peer learning and joint exploration of local community solutions and common challenges during COVID-19 and other complex crises in reflecting the practical developments and responses by CSOs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specific objectives of the event are to:

  • Summarise and present activities undertaken by EU TACSO 3 and other civil society actors in response to COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Discuss the lessons learned during the first spike of the COVID-19 pandemic to better coordinate and inform the community response and grassroots actions in future situations of crisis;
  • Contribute to building community resilience;
  • Open space for discussing challenges and future CSOs strategies for solidarity response in complex crises.

During the event, Trag foundation evaluation on their small grant support programme to 61 organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia during the COVID-19 pandemic that provides insights on how to support local communities in the post-COVID-19 pandemic circumstances.  Supported CSOs from local communities from the three countries as well as CSOs from Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey with similar experience will spotlight their experience on positive examples of grass-root response to COVID-19.

The three main topics of discussion will include:

  • CSOs as essential social service providers during COVID-19: When the global pandemic hit and lockdown measures were introduced, CSOs were crucial in providing support to vulnerable groups when the institutions were either closed or slow to adapt to the ongoing needs of beneficiaries in the system of social care (persons with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, Roma, elderly etc.).
  • Activating community solidarity: grassroots organisations mobilising community resources for immediate relief during the COVID-19 crisis: Many community organisations were very successful in mobilising resources and volunteers to help relief of the direct damaging effects of the COVID-19 crisis. They were quicker to gather and distribute support to those most in need and provide different healthcare resources.
  • Is the future of activism on-line? Discussion of on-line community organising challenges and opportunities: Adopting the new normal has left grassroots organisations with mixed feelings. Some feel that authentic activism and community organising could not be done on-line, while in some cases, on-line events have brought new audiences and more accessibility to high-level speakers/ guests.

The event will take place on-line on Wednesday, 9 and Thursday, 10 June 2021

The event is mainly targeted to the CSOs representative and community-based organisations from the Western Balkan and Turkey.

If you are interested in attending the P2P event, please register until Monday, 7 June till 15:00 hrs CET following this link>>>.

The third trendspotter study on COVID-19 and drugs

Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the way we live, with European countries having to introduce unprecedented measures to protect public health. As with all areas of life, drug consumption, related harms and drug markets have been impacted, as have the services established to respond to drug-related problems. During the first weeks of the pandemic, the EMCDDA instigated two rapid assessment studies to identify the initial impact and implications of COVID-19.

The EMCDDA releases today the third in a series of rapid ‘trendspotter’ studies exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the drug situation and responses to it. Revisiting and reviewing findings from two studies in 2020 on the effects of the pandemic on drug use and services, the report identifies new trends and developments which may have implications for policy and practice.

The report explores the situation in the EU Member States from June 2020 to February 2021, particularly changes in drug markets, patterns of use, harms and drug services, both in the community and in prisons.

The EMCDDA’s trendspotter methodology examines emerging drug-related trends by rapidly collecting and triangulating data from a variety of sources to allow for timely assessments of topics of concern. Specifically, for this COVID-19 impact study, the methodology was adapted to suit online investigation, taking into account the national emergency restrictions on both the EMCDDA team and the study participants. The study was designed to be carried out in successive waves.

The new analysis draws on a range of sources, including: three online surveys, eight virtual facilitated groups, data and literature reviews.

To access the report, please follow this link>>>.

 

The Balkans’ response to COVID-19

The #‎SoS_project offers the second in a series of “Response to COVID-19” events. On 27 April 27 2021, from 11:00 to 13:30 (CEST, UTC +2) or 12:00-14:30 (EEST, UTC +3), an online discussion will take place “The Balkans’ response to COVID-19: experience of #SoS_project partners”.

The Agenda includes following items:

  • Maintaining essential HIV services and introducing new ones in Covid-19 time – Andrej Senih, Executive Director Заедно посилни (North Macedonia)
  • Innovation in Covid-19 response – Aida Kurtović , LLB, MA, Executive Director of Partnerstvo za zdravlje / Partnerships in Health (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • COVID-19 case detection and vaccination – implementation strategy and challenges – Goran Radisavljević, CEO, Timočki Omladinski Centar (Serbia)
  • Access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment during COVID 19 epidemic – Sanja Šišovic, program director of NGO CAZAS (Montenegro)
  • Results of the study on the impact of COVID-19 on the sustainability of HIV and TB services (accent on Balkan) – Dr. Fifa_Rahman, principal researcher of the Matahari Global Solutions (United Kingdom)

To register for the COVID-19 online discussion follow this link>>>.

 

Innovation and resilience in times of crisis

From the IDPC website

In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, prompting governments around the globe to declare a state of emergency and/or implement a wide variety of policies and programmes in order to curb outbreaks, minimise mortality rates, and maintain public safety and order. These include, but are not limited to, different forms of travel and/or movement restrictions (such as lockdowns and quarantine), closure of premises deemed non-essential, and restrictions on gatherings and/or events. Such measures have caused significant changes in public life, public services, governance, democracy and policymaking processes around the world – as well as having serious short- and long-term economic implications.

One additional impact of these measures is the disruption of various channels and dynamics of advocacy conducted by civil society organisations. Prior to the global pandemic, civil society organisations were already facing increasing constraints and shrinking space for advocacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated this downward trend of intensifying repression, in some cases combined with various forms of disinformation, abuse of power and violence. Meanwhile, some civil society actors have been pushed to adapt their ways of working while remaining resilient as they face impacts such as increased workload and/or pressure (amid having less in-person interactions, working from home, and growing demand for services), uncertainty around financial and organisational sustainability, and health concerns, among others.

Aiming to better understand and support the network to respond to these emerging challenges, especially with regard to advocacy for drug policy reform centred on human rights and public health, the IDPC Secretariat initiated a process of documenting and analysing the experiences of civil society and governmental actors working in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result of this process is report “Innovation and resilience in times of crisis – Civil society advocacy for drug policy reform under the COVID-19 pandemic” available following this link>>>.

 

Voices of frontline workers

European harm reduction services needed to be innovative and adapt very rapidly in response to the fast-changing landscape of the pandemic and its associated national control measures. Preliminary research on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug services and PWUD has noted decreases in available harm reduction services.

Frontline harm reduction workers play a crucial role in public health response during COVID-19 and are instrumental in implementing these rapid-scale changes required to keep vital services operational.

Their experiences during the pandemic provide critical data to understanding the effect of the pandemic on the vulnerable population of PWUD and the health services they depend on.

This Correlation European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN) report on the impact of COVID-19 on vital harm reduction services seeks to bring these voices of front-line workers at drug consumption rooms (DCR’s), harm reduction outreach teams and PWUD themselves to highlight their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report includes sections on:

  • General Harm Reduction Response to COVID-19
  • Drug Consumption Rooms
  • Outreach services
  • Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST)
  • Government & municipality response
  • Drug Supply
  • Digital and other Innovations
  • User experiences in the streets
  • Homelessness
  • Social Isolation for PWUD

Our member organisations from Bosnia Herzegovina and Greece contributed to the report with their experience.

The briefing paper is available following this link>>>.

 

Impact of COVID-19 on drug use and drug services in Western Balkans

The Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) registered the main waves of COVID-19 infections later than most of the EU countries, but containment strategies were implemented at the same time and with equal force as in the rest of Europe.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published Trendspotter briefing: Impact of COVID-19 on drug use and drug services in Western Balkans. This report provides the main results of studies conducted using the trendspotter methodology to explore the impact of the pandemic and associated measures on drug services and people who use drugs in the Western Balkan region.

DPNSEE and our member organisations contributed to the report with information and case studies from the ground.

The main findings are listed below.

  1. Use of alcohol, benzodiazepines, and cocaine was reported to have increased in some subpopulations of people who use drugs. Use of benzodiazepines in combination with opioids was among the common risk behaviours observed during the first weeks of lockdown.
  2. A number of harms were observed among marginalised and injecting drug users, who in some cases lacked resources to satisfy basic needs. Mental health problems were reported among both recreational and problem drug users.
  3. The provision of drug treatment was reduced during the first weeks of the pandemic, affecting mainly new admissions and services provided face to face.
  4. The number of people entering treatment declined between March and May 2020 in almost all countries in the Western Balkan region.
  5. Opioid substitution treatment (OST) centres and harm reduction services mainly remained operational, although under a restricted regime.
  6. The main adaptations to the new situation included use of telemedicine and a relaxation of OST distribution schemes.
  7. Personal protection measures became standard in all treatment and harm reduction facilities, and protective equipment was distributed to clients whenever possible.

The crisis highlighted the fragile position of some service providers and the reliance of harm reduction services on the support of international donors.

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

 

European Harm Reduction Sessions

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network we held a day-long webinar of four major sessions in lieu of the 5th European Harm Reduction Conference which is recently postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are the links to all the session recordings

What can we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 and the impact on harm reduction in Europe

Watch here>>>

 

 

 


Special edition launch of the Harm Reduction Journal

Watch here>>>

 

 

 


Different approaches for decriminalisation – what works?

Watch here>>>

 

 

 


Engaging with policymakers and the public to promote ethical drug policy

Watch here>>>

The full length of the film “Putting UK Drug Policy into Focus” is available here>>>.

 

 

 

The next Harm Reduction Session Challenges and opportunities to monitor new drug trends by civil society organisations (CSOs) will be held on 16 December, 15:00 – 16:30 CET,

Registrations are now open. Find out more and register following this link>>>.

 

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.