European funds for Roma health integration

On 16 March 2015 the representative of the International Roma Women Fund “Chiricli” and the National Focal Point in Ukraine of “ROMED” program, Zola Kondur participated in a Hearing “European funds for Roma health integration”. The participation of Ms. Zola Kondur in the hearing was possible due to support of MRG Europe. The event took place in European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels.   More than 40 participants: experts in health issues, NGOs, representatives of European Commission, Council of Europe, Fundamental Rights Agency, national contact points took part in the hearing. It was organized by AMALIPE Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance (Bulgaria), Roma Center for Public Health Policies SASTIPEN (Romania) and European Roma Information Office (Brussels, Belgium) with the support of Roma Health Project, Open Society Foundations.

The Member of European Parliament from Roma origin Damian Draghichi in his opening remarks pointed out the connection of health with education, housing and employment. Roma integration policy pays insignificant attention to health – both at a national and EU level and this weakness should be overcome, said Mr. Draghichi. The Member of European Parliament Mr. Damian Draghichi informed participants about the plan to organize Parliamentary hearing on Roma health together with Amalipe, Sastipen and other organizations that work in the field.

The executive director of ERIO Ivan Ivanov also stressed the importance of healthcare. He expressed his opinion that discrimination is everyday practice that disturbs healthcare service provision of Roma people in many EU countries.

The representative of the Roma Health Program of the OSF Maja Saitovic stressed that healthcare is among the major fields of interest for OSF. The Public Health Program has special Roma Health Project that supports pilot initiatives as Roma Health Scholarship Program, community monitoring of healthcare services and others.

The experts and the Roma NGOs representatives from Bulgaria, Romania and Spain presented the current situation of access to healthcare for Roma in countries mentioned above and shared with the best practices in improving the access to healthcare and medical services for Roma.

The “ROMED” NFP for Ukraine, Zola Kondur informed the participants about the situation in Ukraine. The problem of access to health care is often caused by the lack of documents, identification and registration and the lack of funds to pay for medical services and purchase of medicines. The events in Ukraine that took place from November 2013 and the subsequent conflict in the East of Ukraine, gave rise to serious concerns about human rights violations. There is no accurate data available about the number of displaced Roma, but according to Roma non-governmental organizations and Roma health mediators there are 9000 displaced Roma, predominantly women and children from urban and rural areas from the East of Ukraine. According to Roma NGOs’ information about 5000 Roma are reluctant to register, fearing consequences, such as confiscation of their property by the police or other authorities. Some fear detention and mistreatment for no reason. About 2500 Roma would like to register, but cannot do so because they lack the necessary documentation such as passports, identity cards and health state records. About 1500 people have been left without formal education and there is no prospect of acquiring any form of education due to their displacement. The displacement resulted in increased vulnerability of Roma to diseases because of stress and lack of financial resources to buy necessary medications. Those Roma families that were not able to find accommodation in new regions had to get back to ATO area. The problems of Roma IDPs have been invisible in Ukraine. However OSCE ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s involvement have changed the situation considerably. The ODIHR prepared “Assessment report on ROMA IN UKRAINE AND THE IMPACT OF THE CURRENT CRISIS”, as well as supported “Chiricli” to conduct the Monitoring of Human Rights Situation of Roma in Ukraine that helped to identify problems of Roma displaced persons. The ROMED program helped to train the Roma mediators in Ukraine, who are the main resource of the information and assistance providers in the communities. The ROMED helped to improve the quality and effectiveness of the work of the mediators, with a view to supporting better communication and cooperation between Roma and public health and social institutions.

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