The primary time I met Roma individuals within the Western Balkan area was in 1999, whereas I used to be working in Montenegro. I had simply come out of some onerous years in South Sudan and Rwanda, and I used to be wanting ahead to coming nearer to residence. I used to be working for an NGO and spent my days within the Roma camp exterior of the city of Podgorica, the place 1000’s of individuals have been struggling to make a dwelling. Regardless of the tensions, previous and up to date, and the shortage of many issues, the camp was not a tragic place, one way or the other.
I bear in mind being amazed by the unbelievable range of facial options in that neighborhood, feeling generally like I used to be in a global airport with individuals coming from all over the world. I bear in mind considering the historical past of those individuals is on their face. Many households had comparable tales and ancestry, however others recalled completely different paths, India, center east, northern Africa.
I may see the camp as a lake, the place completely different rivers had converged to, over the centuries; and the lake was tempted between remaining a lake or turning again right into a river.
We used to take a seat with Roma girls, and share tales. After some time, they learn my future within the espresso grounds, and naturally, it concerned love. We in all probability have been engaged on wants evaluation or one thing like that, however I simply bear in mind the 2 issues that each one girls stored mentioning to me: they needed higher tooth (their tooth have been broken shortly as a result of poor vitamin and hygiene circumstances), and so they needed nail polish. They have been 15, 35, 50-year-old, and within the midst of chaos and despair, they needed magnificence, and love.
This was one in every of these moments that captured the fact of inequalities: not only a subtle macro-economic idea, however one thing individuals expertise as people, one thing which prevents them from fulfilling their potential and their desires, in no matter form and scope.
A yr later, I met them once more. In Gujarat, India, within the wake of the 2001 devastating earthquake. There, they’re known as Kuchis, the nomadic tribes of India and Afghanistan. Similar faces, identical tales, identical music. Similar extraordinary resilience inside completely different chaos. The primary migrants.
Addressing the wants of essentially the most weak Roma communities in Serbia
I meet Roma households now once more, in Serbia, in my place of the UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia, within the peak of the COVID-19 disaster. Based on the official information, there are at the least 150,000 Roma individuals dwelling in Serbia, although unofficial figures level this quantity could also be considerably greater.
Through the first three months of the UN response to COVID-19, our groups, together with authorities counterparts, recognized that tens of 1000’s of Roma lacked primary entry to protected water and electrical energy, which is a critical well being danger within the time of a pandemic, in addition to being a risk to life and human dignity. We assessed humanitarian wants in 500 substandard Roma settlements (out of over 760 estimated settlements) and shortly began performing. In shut cooperation with the Serbian Pink Cross on the native degree and plenty of different native stakeholders, the UN has offered help packages and tailored well being messages to 1000’s of Roma households in danger. The UN additionally put in place help in order that Roma kids may attend some type of distant schooling, in communities the place entry to the web and to pc is extraordinarily restricted.
Eighty-two Roma well being mediators in 70 municipalities switched to phone consultations. In just some weeks’ they reached 9,260 Roma households, suggested over 4,500 individuals on preventive measures, and referred over 100 individuals to COVID-19 testing centres.
For a protracted time frame, Roma individuals in Serbia have been structurally uncared for, which resulted in insufficient housing, unequal entry to schooling for Roma kids and unequal place within the open labour market.