On Monday, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) organized a conference where it presented its findings for a report on the “Socio-impact of Covid-19 on Roma in the Western Balkans”. The conference brought together representatives from the region’s public institutions, international organizations, civil society, as well as from the European Union who discussed the economic impact of the Covid-19 on Roma in the areas of education, employment, health, housing, and non-discrimination.
The study highlighted that the Roma community had been particularly affected by the COVID-pandemic.
According to RCC’s Roma Integration Head of Office, Orhan Usein, the biggest problems were detected in the field of employment and education.
“The regional analyses on the impact of Covid-19 on Roma in the region confirmed that the highest (negative) consequences for Roma are detected in the areas of employment and education. Three out of four Roma children did not receive any help during online lectures, both from their teachers or classmates, and the dropout rate increased by almost 11% at the regional level, mostly due to the difficult financial situation of the families, as every second Roma reported reduced income”, said Usein.
In Albania, the school dropout rate rose by 5% due to financial hardship (82%), with the pandemic bringing worse consequences in segregated settlements (30%) compared to those integrated (26%). Accordingly, “one-third of the respondents from segregated settlements had difficulties to understand online classes”.
In addition, the report noted that the Albanian government “had been very active in providing educational support to Roma (59%)”, but 22% of Roma respondents said that the quality of online classes was not as they had expected.
Employment was one of the most problematic sectors with 83% of Roma admitting to being concerned about going unemployed if the pandemic continued for a year.
“Concerning the gender breakdown, 85% males and 80% females have concerns about losing their jobs/income. The proximity of concerns is quite similar in segregated and desegregated settlements of Roma, 82% and 84% respectively”, the report highlighted.
Another way how the pandemic affected Roma was that many of them, respectively 27%, reported being working more hours.
The report also showed that the Roma did not receive much assistance from the government, with 97% of respondents declaring that they had not received any support package on employment.
In terms of access to healthcare, the report highlighted two other significant problems.
Firstly, one in ten respondents said that they did not have a medical facility in their neighborhood and only 14 out of 170 Roma have been offered medical services.
Secondly, only 4 Roma received health-related packages in the last 12 months.
A significant number of Roma were also skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine, with more than half (54%) refusing to get the jab.
“29% do not believe in the efficiency of the vaccine, 28% do not want it due to potential side effects, 24% are against vaccines in general, and less than 10% believe not to be exposed to Covid-19”, reveals study.
In Albania, only 34.54% of the population has been fully jabbed, ranking second to last in the entire region.
Another hardship faced by Roma in the times of the pandemic, where hygiene was a crucial factor, was their lack of access to basic facilities.
According to the findings, 46% of respondents declared that they lived in bad living conditions, which would make them even more susceptible to protect themselves from the virus, while 76% didn’t have minimum conditions for self-isolation in case of Covid-19 infection.
A total of 3,000 Roma from Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia participated in the survey, using the random sampling method across municipalities that have a higher concentration of Roma as per official data released by the respective states.
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