A curfew since March 23, the state of emergency since March 16, schools closed since March 11 … Romania, too, is deeply impacted by the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
In this context of a global health crisis, the Roma population is particularly isolated and weakened. Aide et Action has been running a project since 2018, in partnership with the Romanian association Stea, to promote the social and economic inclusion of families living in the shantytown of Sătmărel. Cristina Diacuic, director of Stea testifies about the activities implemented and the current context within the shantytown.
“For the moment, everyone is fine within the team and, according to the latest news, the marginalized population of the Sătmărel shantytown is not affected by COVID-19,” said Cristina, our operational partner in Romania. However, we are very concerned about the high risk of the virus spreading in this area.
Since March 11, schools have been closed in Romania. Following the even more restrictive measures announced this weekend by the government, we have decided to reorganize our activities as follows: set up remote working for the team; stop all direct group activities; organize a permanent facility on the Stea premises to continue to ensure the distribution of medicines for families in the shantytown; and provide remote support by phone and the internet for these same families.
Effective mediation work
“Our teams wish to offer educational activities to children from Sătmărel with access to the Internet or a telephone. The idea is to test the feasibility of “online courses [online]” via Messenger or Whatsapp, per family; that is to say for all children living in the same house. We are in the process of gathering parents’ opinions to see who would be willing to play the role of co-organizer of this type of activity for their children. We already have at least 2 mothers who are interested”, says Cristina.
A permanent facility for medication is also ensured. Everything is well organized to prevent risks: each day only one person from Sătmărel comes to Stea with the medical prescriptions of all families. Thanks to the partnership we have with the city pharmacy, everything is going well. Our mediation work allows the families of Sătmărel to have access to their medicines. Without that, there would be little chance that pharmacies, which are overwhelmed at the moment, would take care of the needs of the Roma against whom, unfortunately, there is often discrimination.
A worrying general situation
In the shantytown, the general situation is worrying. In the past two weeks, more than 35 adults have returned from abroad (Austria, Germany, Spain and England) to Sătmărel. Abroad, they engaged in very precarious work such as prostitution. Some ill-informed people have not yet become aware of the risks linked to the virus and have not adapted their lifestyle accordingly.
Despite some “suspicious” cases, no COVID-19 patient has yet been officially identified in Sătmărel. Overwhelmed Romanian doctors are prioritizing the patients they receive in their office. Inhabitants of the shantytown say that priority is given to people with healthcare insurance; which is not their case. Their only option for care is, therefore, to go to the accident & emergency room in the hospital.
In general, we are worried about the future of people in the community and the development of the situation in the shantytown. In the media and on social media, there is a burst of hateful and discriminatory reactions towards the Roma. People are angry because they believe that the latter do not respect the measures to prevent transmission and that it is they, through their movements, who bring the virus to the country.
We have no information about possible national measures concerning marginalized communities. According to the evolution of the situation, and based on needs, we will direct our efforts to support the families that we already accompany in Sătmărel.
Learn more about our project “Together for a Better Life”: social and economic inclusion of the Roma community in Sătmărel.