In Romania, the precarious population is more excluded than ever in the face of the Coronavirus

Photo credit: Kristen Poels/Aide et Action

Curfew since 23 March, state of emergency since 16 March, schools closed since 11 March... Romania also faces Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. In this context of global health crisis, the precarious population is particularly isolated and weakened. Since 2018, in partnership with the Romanian association SteaAide et Action is running a project to promote the social and economic inclusion of families living in the slum of Sătmărel, Romania. Cristina DIACIUC, director of Stea, talks about the activities implemented and the current context in the slum of Sătmărel. 

So far, everyone in the team is doing well and, according to the latest news, the marginalised population of the Sătmărel slum is not affected by COVID-19," says Cristina, our operational partner in Romania. Nevertheless, we are very concerned about the high risk of the virus spreading in the slum.

Since 11 March, schools have been closed in Romania. Following the even more restrictive measures announced this weekend by the government, we have taken the decision to reorganise our activities as follows: to set up teleworking for the team; to stop all direct group activities; to organise a permanent presence in Stea's premises to continue to ensure the distribution of medicines for the families in the shantytown; and to ensure remote support by telephone and internet for these same families.

Effective mediation work

Our teams want to offer educational activities to children in Sătmărel with access to the internet or a phone. The idea is to test the feasibility of "online courses" via Messenger or Whatsapp, per family, i.e. for all children living in the same house. We are in the process of collecting parents' opinions to see who would be willing to co-organise this type of activity for their children. We already have at least two mothers who are interested," says Cristina. 

There is also a permanent supply of medicines. Everything is well organised to prevent risks: every day one person from Sătmărel comes to Stea with the medical prescriptions of all the families. Thanks to the partnership we have with the town's pharmacy, everything is going well. Our mediation work allows the families of Sătmărel to have access to their medicines. Without this, there would be little chance that the pharmacies, which are overloaded at the moment, would take care of the needs of precarious populations, against whom there is often discrimination unfortunately.

A worrying overall situation

Within the slum, the general situation is worrying. Despite a few "suspected" cases, for the time being no COVID-19 patient has been officially identified in Sătmărel. In any case, the doctors, overwhelmed, prioritise the patients they receive in their offices. Thus, the inhabitants of the shantytown say that priority is given to people with medical insurance, which is not the case for them. Their only recourse to care is therefore to go to the hospital emergency room. 

Exacerbated discrimination 

In general we are concerned about the future of the people in the community and the evolution of the situation in the slum. In the media and on social networks, there is a surge of hateful and discriminatory reactions towards precarious workers returning from abroad. People are angry because they feel that they are not respecting the measures to prevent transmission and that it is they, through their travels, who are bringing the virus into the country. The global pandemic of COVID-19 crystallises pre-existing conflicts and prejudices against ethnic minorities and precarious people. 

We have no information about possible national measures regarding marginalised communities. Depending on the evolution of the situation, according to the needs, we will direct our efforts to support the families we already accompany in Sătmărel."

More about our project "Together for a Better Life": social and economic inclusion of the Roma community in Sătmărel

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