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Swiss PRO
  • Government of the Republic of Serbia
  • The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
  • Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM)

News / Actualities

Swiss Government Support Improves the Situation of 2,700 People Living in Substandard Roma Settlements

  • Niš, 19 April 2022

The implementation of 19 local self-government and civil society organisations’ projects focusing on mitigating the effects of COVID-19 in substandard Roma settlements improved the availability of public services, meeting the needs of a total of 2,710 men and women, as highlighted during the event organised by the Swiss PRO programme on 19 April 2022 in Niš.

“Through joint efforts, civil society organisations and local self-governments have helped improve the quality of life of the citizens, particularly vulnerable groups. The Swiss Government has supported the organisation of additional activities focusing on the response to the effects of the pandemic, and these 19 projects have also contributed to systemic changes in the access to services in health, education and enhanced sanitary conditions,” Ana Nedeljković Belja, Swiss PRO Programme National Manager, pointed out.

The projects were based on the real needs of local communities, and adapted to the population structure of specific settlements, stressed Nataša Ivanović, Swiss PRO Programme Social Inclusion

“The majority of the projects focused on supporting children in education, especially to better cope with online school. Also, through examinations, information sharing on preventative measures and registration for vaccination, access to health services was improved. Through vocational training and the provision of equipment for businesses, youth were empowered economically, and the situation of secondary raw material collectors was visibly improved, not only regarding work safety, but also the legalisation of their affairs and increased income. Sanitary conditions were also improved, and two settlements in Lebane were given access to drinking water for the first time after 50 years,” Ivanović pointed out.

With Swiss Government support, through the Swiss PRO programme, a total of 235,000 EUR was provided for projects implemented in Bela Palanka, Bor, Valjevo, Vladičin Han, Vranje, Vrnjačka Banja, Zaječar, Kragujevac, Kruševac, Lebane, Leskovac, Niš, Novi Pazar and Trstenik.

“I would like to thank the Swiss Government and UNOPS Swiss PRO Programme for recognising the need to help the most vulnerable families. This experience has been very important for our association, as we have included young volunteers in our activities, and entered into cooperation with local institutions. This is also an additional encouragement for new activities,” said Ivana Petković Lozanić from the association Roma Society Zaječar.

A video presenting the impact of the project "Business Instead of Garbage", implemented in Niš and Pirot by the Republic Union of Waste Collectors, was screened at the event.

During the time of the pandemic, the problem with access to clean water in substandard Roma settlements became even more obvious, because they could not introduce even the basic epidemiological measures and in response, four wells with drinking water were drilled in four Roma settlements in Lebane, Osman Balić, YUROM Centre Director, reported at the event.

“With the encouragement of the Swiss PRO Programme, and Swiss Government support, we joined a development project and we never used the funds more wisely. When we found this water, 230 litres per minute, and saw the smiles of the women and children living in these settlements, this was the best proof of project impact,” Balić said and invited Roma organisations to identify Roma settlements which lack clean water. 

More information about the results of these activities is available in the Fact Sheet on results of supported projects.