roma_irfEurope is home for 12 to 15 million members of the Roma minority whose living experience exposes them to marginalization, which is manifest in health status: Roma exhibit some of the worst morbidity and mortality indicators in the Europe region. The World Bank, the UNDP, and the Council of Europe report that TB is more prevalent in Roma communities and that the Roma are more vulnerable to TB. An earlier report ‘Confronting a Hidden Disease: TB in Roma Communities’ described governmental and NGO activities to address TB in Roma communities and recommended areas for program expansion.

In March 2015, a hearing took place in Brussels at the European Economic and Social Committee “European funds for Roma health integration”, attended by more than 40 participants: experts in health issues, NGOs, representatives of the European Commission, Council of Europe, Fundamental Rights Agency, national contact points. 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 of Roma origin Damian Draghichi spoke on the connection between health with education, housing and employment. Roma integration policy pays insignificant attention to health – both at a national and at the EU level and this weakness should be overcome, said MEP Draghichi.

From Ukraine, Zola Kondur, the representative of the International Roma Women Fund “Chiricli” and the National Focal Point in Ukraine of “ROMED” program, took part in the hearings. Zola spoke about the issues of health care access by Roma populations 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 military conflict in the East of Ukraine has deepened the problems faced by Roma community in peacetime.  Roma IDPs face all typical problems like all other people fleeing from the war. However, Roma experience the double discrimination and assistance is needed more than ever. There is no accurate data available about the number of IDP Roma, but according to Roma NGOs and Roma health mediators, there are 9000 displaced Roma, mostly women and children from urban and rural areas of Eastern Ukraine. About 5000 Roma are reluctant to register, fearing consequences, such as confiscation of their property by the police or other authorities. Human rights activists indicate the cases where officials simply refused to communicate with Roma, sent them to other offices, advised them to go to the immigration office and even to the police – to get registered. 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. Lack of registration complicates their access to health care. The displacement resulted in increased vulnerability of Roma to disease because of stress and lack of finances to buy necessary medications. Those Roma families that were not able to find accommodation in new regions had to get back to the hostilities area.

The problems of Roma IDPs have been invisible in Ukraine. OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe are involved in efforts to change the situation. The ODIHR prepared “Assessment report on ROMA IN UKRAINE AND THE IMPACT OF THE CURRENT CRISIS”. 

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