The onset of the coronavirus crisis has had the greatest impact on the most vulnerable. The Roma are one of them, people on the margins from where the state has not been able to move them for years. CSOs constantly remind about the main problems that arise from poor access to education, employment, housing and health care. The state of emergency has exacerbated the problems and further worsened the Roma’s social position.
According to the Center for Culture, Communication and Education of Roma “Bright Future” from Kocani, that works with this community, the most terrible is the loss of their daily income. They are not able to earn as before in the markets, in the informal economy, nor through the collection and recycling of materials, petty trade and so on. Furthermore, the social measures taken by the state mainly apply to people who have been formally employed so far and have now lost their jobs, which is not the case with Roma. Given the informal nature of Roma engagement, these measures do not apply to them.
These were some of the reasons for the association “Bright Future” to be involved in the distribution of social packages. In fact, before the crisis, the association was awarded a grant by the Civil Society Resource Centre, under which a new local body was established – a local action group for advocacy that should represent the interests of the Roma community and involve it in policy making in Kocani.
“Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we received reaction from the community and the Local Action Group, asking us directly for help,” said Manuela, the project coordinator. After consultations, the association decided to reallocate funds under this sub-grant for procurement and distribution of social packages.
With these reallocated funds, “Bright Future” delivered 30 social packages containing food for a week to 30 families, i.e. 97 people. In addition, they provided another 210 packages for the community they represent with the help of the municipality and other CSOs. This covers the most vulnerable Roma families in the urban environment.
From “Bright Future” they say that after the state of emergency they will focus on the economic recovery of the Roma community and their socialisation. “The poor economic situation makes their lives difficult, and makes them even more isolated,” Manuela added.
According to survey conducted by Romalitico, the majority of Roma (60%) believe they respect Government’s measures, while respondents who do not belong to this community fear that the Roma population in the country does not comply with the recommendations. Such views are probably due to the already existing stigma towards the Roma community and the ethnic discrimination.
This year, the Roma Day (April 8) was celebrated during self-isolation. Many Roma still live without access to clean water and sanitation, and the crisis has only further shown how much this community is on the margins of society. Most of the economic aid is said to come from donations from the Roma diaspora. CSOs have called for greater involvement of institutions and substantive problem-solving.