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The staff of the Association Margina in Bosnia and Herzegovina focusses on decentralised distribution of harm reduction materials in the field after they had to close their drop-in centers in Zenica and Tuzla. The six employees of the Association fear that funding cuts might force them to stop providing social services to people who use drugs, sex workers and people who are imprisoned.

The continuation of our operations are at risk because of funding problems. Our Association is the only harm reduction organisation that has survived in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In accordance with the orders and recommendations of the Crisis Staff managing this health and social crisis, we had to close both Drop in centers (Zenica and Tuzla), and transferred all forces to the field.

A rapid mapping of the terrain was carried out and interviews with a large number of clients enabled a new methodology of work, all in line with the recommendations that aim to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 between people. We currently cover all our clients in two regions, covering about 1 million people and about 1800 of our clients, and with the great help of our clients we have identified in both regions 20 key points – persons to whom we deliver all the materials available to us.

The material is delivered on the basis of the stated needs of our clients and in the period from March 1st to April 10th we distributed in both regions 51 800 needles and syringes, 25 000 pieces of distilled water, alcohol wipes, containers for preparation of the mixture, 1200 containers for disposal of infectious waste.

It should be noted that during this period about 45,000 needles and syringes and other infectious material were collected and deposited in our drop in centers until this crisis passed.

All of this work is done by 6 of our employees and we all do all the work and have very few resources at our disposal. The biggest win at the moment is the involvement and commitment of our clients throughout this work process. The 6 of us have been volunteering a long time ago and will work as long as we have materials to share with our clients.

If this model of work continues, our supplies are sufficient by the end of June, and after that we will be forced to close the same after 18 years of conducting HR services in Bosnia and Herzegovina because we will no longer be able to do so.

We are aware that the situation around the world is critical and that priorities have changed, but we also urge you all to appeal to and try to influence donors to support us in the coming period so as not to close the only available services for drug users, sex workers and prisoners in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This article was submitted by Denis Dedajic, President of Association Margina in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was first uploaded to the HARM REDUCTION COVID-19 RESPONSE website of Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network. We thank Correlation for contacting Association Margina and making it possible to present their actions also on the Save Lives- Protect People platform.

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