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ROMACTED assistance and contribution to actions during the COVID-19 pandemic in North Macedonia

COVID-19 IN NORTH MACEDONIA
Skopje April 2020
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ROMACTED assistance and contribution to actions during the COVID-19 pandemic in North Macedonia

The global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate, resulting in an unprecedented crisis which challenges governments to take both effective and immediate action as a response to the emergency situation. The Government of North Macedonia has put into force a set of preventive economic measures and decrees during the state of emergency. Vulnerable Roma communities are particularly exposed to a high health risk due to poor housing conditions, lack of basic infrastructure and regular income.


The ROMACTED support team, together with its Community Action Group (CAG) members and municipal contact points, have assessed the urgent needs of the Roma communities during the pandemic. The CAG members mapped the most vulnerable families and prepared a list of the most at-risk families in 11 municipalities (excluding Debar due to the complete lockdown there). Following the assessment and mapping, official requests were sent to the mayors and municipal contact points asking for humanitarian assistance to provide the most vulnerable families with hygiene and food packages. In some cases, a reallocation of the municipal funds set aside to mark International Roma Day on 8 April was requested for the provision of humanitarian packages, disinfection of the (asphalted) streets within Roma settlements and involvement of a Roma person in the municipal crisis headquarters.

As a response, the municipality of Berovo distributed 30 food packages on the occasion of International Roma Day. In Tetovo, in the settlements 146 and Teke, a total of 25 families received hygiene and food packages. An additional 25 families were given vouchers in the amount of 1,000 MKD to purchase supplies in the “Kipper” market. In Bitola, the municipality will distribute hygiene and food packages to 99 families in the week of 16-24 April. These interventions have been supported by the Community Action Groups who have also assisted with the distribution of packages in some cases, in accordance with safety protocols.


Synergies and regular communication have been maintained throughout with all relevant stakeholders. The ROMACTED support team informed the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy about the need for support and improved access to social services for Roma at local level. Co-operation has been established with the Open Society Foundation in Skopje for the distribution of humanitarian packages, supported logistically by the Red Cross. This has resulted in a total of 197 vulnerable families from the settlements 29 November, Potok, street 146 and Teke receiving hygiene and food kits in Tetovo, whilst in Gostivar the same help was provided to 198 families in need from the settlements Fazanerija, Dupka and Grudajca. From 21 to 24 April, the distribution of food packages is planned for 161 Roma families in Kicevo, 120 families in Kocani, 150 families in Veles, 260 families in Stip and 170 families in Strumica. One package should be sufficient for 4 to 6 members of a household for up to one month.

Additional co-operation has been established with UNDP Skopje regarding the project which aims to engage Roma in community service in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The ROMACTED support team has been encouraging municipalities to submit applications for this UNDP project in order to provide the necessary protective equipment to the Roma. The programme will continue to mobilise the community and identify people willing to get involved in that work.


In addition, the ROMACTED support team will work on strengthening the synergies and communication with all stakeholders in the field, in order to ensure that this essential support continues to be provided to the Roma community in North Macedonia at this difficult time.