The first wave of the pandemic had hit the Roma community on a large scale and, despite consistent support provided by ROMACTED and other programmes, the whole Roma community remained the weakest part of Montenegrin society at an additional risk of marginalisation. Unfortunately, as current statistics show, Montenegro turned out to have one of Europe’s highest rates of positive COVID-19 cases.
The unpredictable results of the national and local elections, followed by substantial political changes at all levels, have deepened even more the precarious situation in which the Roma communities throughout Montenegro find themselves.
In order to respond to this, efforts to reach out to the badly-affected Roma community in ROMACTED partner municipalities intensified over the past five months. As a result of co-operation with local authorities, the ROMACTED support organisation NGO Mladi Romi, CSOs and the whole Roma community represented by facilitators and volunteers, the Programme managed to carry out several activities in an attempt to mitigate the economic and social effects on the Roma population.
Within this timeframe, in the Municipality of Ulcinj, 88 families received 100 food packages and essential hygiene items; 100 families from Municipality of Nikšić received the same amount of packages with logistic support from the local Red Cross; in the Municipality of Bar, 12 high school students benefited from vouchers for purchasing clothes and school books; in the Municipality of Bijelo Polje, 70 families received 110 packages, including food and hygiene products; the Community Action Group in Berane signalled the need for carpentry tools in order to improve the equipment and working conditions of many Roma workers, resulting in a set of 125 different working tools being purchased and distributed to 50 Roma workers which has improved their income potential; the Municipality of Herceg Novi benefited from an additional distribution of 100 packages of aid kits to as many Roma families. As such, over 10,000kg of essential items have been distributed in this period. In Podgorica, where a large number of donors and programmes have been distributing aid packages, ROMACTED and the local authorities contributed jointly to the construction of a playground for small children in Konik settlement.
The COVID-19 emergency is far from over and many challenges remain. The economic consequences will undoubtedly become more evident in this coming winter, affecting the Roma population at national level. The focus of the ROMACTED Programme will therefore continue to be on identifying the needs of the Roma communities, as well as determining the best support strategies for the forthcoming months.