With millions of deaths and hundreds of millions infected worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest health crisis of our time. All sectors of society are struggling because of the pandemic and having to adapt to the tough but necessary restrictions on movement and physical contact.
Huge efforts have been made to keep essential services running for people with substance use disorders, pushing frontline workers from health and social services to their limits. Day in, day out, these frontline workers are working to help some of the most vulnerable members of society: people whose drug use disorder often goes hand in hand with social and health problems, such as HIV and hepatitis infection, unemployment or homelessness.
The Pompidou Group continues to support its member states in meeting the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic for drug policy-related services, by giving a voice to people with substance use disorders and the professionals who work with them and fighting for the protection of their human rights.
This publication from March 2021 presents experiences and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by frontline workers and people who use drugs. It builds on practical examples from 21 countries submitted on the Pompidou Group’s 'Save Lives - Protect People' platform.
The interviews, articles and reports in the publication showcase valuable experiences and approaches to fighting the pandemic across countries, seen through the eyes of experts, frontline workers delivering services in the challenging conditions of a COVID-19 outbreak and the people who benefit from those services. This makes the publication a valuable source of information for drug treatment and harm reduction professionals, researchers and policy makers for understanding the impact of the pandemic on this often underserved and marginalised group, the daily fight waged by health and social workers and the support they need to overcome the unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic.
In April 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, the Pompidou Group launched an online platform to provide a forum for frontline workers and policy makers to share their experiences in meeting the urgent needs of people with substance use disorders arising from the pandemic.
The platform has offered concrete examples of practices that are aimed at mitigating the adverse effects of the COVID-19 crisis and associated restrictions for people who use drugs as well as those who are in contact with them. Its purpose was to facilitate decision making on action at policy and practice level that is aimed at providing harm and risk reduction measures and delivering drug treatment and rehabilitation services under the COVID-19 restrictions, using available resources.
Videos, photos and short summaries presenting lived experiences were submitted online and were displayed in one of the six languages of the platform: English, French, Russian, Italian, German and Spanish.
The online platform was operational during the period April 2020-April 2021. A selection of submitted experiences can be found in the publication 'Covid-19 and people who use drugs'.