Belgrade, 6 December 2017 - A two-day regional conference about efficient and sustainable ways of institutionalising Roma Health Mediators has opened today in Belgrade, organised by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Serbia and UNICEF.
Results of the work of Roma Health Mediators, models of organising, financing, reporting and education of mediators in Serbia and the region will be presented at the conference.
The exchange of knowledge will contribute to creating sustainable solutions for the inclusion of Roma Health Mediators into the system, and for the improvement of the situation of the Roma population.
Representatives of ministries and national institutions from the Republic of Serbia, as well as representatives of relevant institutions from countries where Roma Health Mediators are active - from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Slovakia and Romania, as well as Roma Health Mediators, are participating in the work of conference.
In 2008, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Serbia launched the Health Mediator project, while UNICEF and Telenor joined to help train mediators and provide computers and mobile phones to increase the efficiency of their work and establish a system of recording of services and monitoring the health status of Roma children and families.
Roma Health Mediators have contributed to the improvement of the quality of life for Roma families. There has been an increase in the number of Roma families and children who have access to health care, and there has also been a significant reduction in the mortality rate of Roma children in Roma settlements. Moreover, the implementation of this project has helped Roma families realise many other rights, including to education and social welfare, to which they are entitled.
So far, more than 145,000 people, including 52,000 children, have been reached by health mediators – helping Roma people to secure regular access to health services, immunisation, and support at all levels of the health care system.
Mediators have been instrumental in connecting the Roma to other parts of the system, including the social welfare and education systems, leading to an increase in enrolment of children from Roma settlements into schools. The Roma Mediators have become a unique connection between the Roma population and the entire institutional system.
Despite the improvement of the position of Roma in the previous period, there are still significant disparities between Roma and children from the general population. Children living in Roma settlements are still twice as likely to die before their 5th birthday than children in the general population. 1 in 5 Roma children are stunted, and only 30% have adequate nutrition, all leaving significant consequences on developmental outcomes.
The work of Roma Health Mediators has proved to be one of the ways to overcome these problems, so their institutionalisation is critical. The exchange of experience with countries in the region and the European Union will contribute to achieving this goal, recognised as one of the important steps on the path to European integration.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/serbia