human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Macedonian Caritas stays active despite pandemic

The measures taken by the Macedonian government on 10 March to reduce the spreading of the coronavirus have had an important impact on the work of Macedonian Caritas. Despite the need to adapt their activities, staff and volunteers continue to be there for those who are most in need.

Macedonian Caritas is following the rules and guidelines of the relevant state institutions and church authorities, while reinventing its way of working. The national office staff works from home as much as possible. Home care visits have been reduced to a strict minimum, but Caritas employees are continuing to assist the most vulnerable, i.e. the elderly, the sick, the poor and those who have literally nobody who would visit them. Through these visits, Caritas also ensures that the persons at the margins of society are not left behind in these challenging times.

Despite the lockdown, migration through North Macedonia continues. Since 25 March, the police is transporting migrants who arrive to the transit centre in Tabanovce on the Serbian border to the centre in Gevgelija on the Greek border. Until recently, Caritas staff was providing breakfast in Tabanovce to about 20 migrants a day. The local field officer used protective equipment. However, as the Red Cross has a permanent presence in the centre, this service was halted a few days ago in order to reduce the number of persons entering the camp and the risk of contamination.

Unfortunately, the educational centre of Caritas in Šuta Orizari had to temporarily close its doors when the government closed all schools. This centre usually provides homework support to children from vulnerable Roma families.

Just like in the neighbouring countries, Macedonian Caritas notices that the persons most affected by the social and economic consequences of the lockdown are families that already experience poverty. Many of these families are from the Roma minorities – but not only. Before the pandemic, they generated their income in the informal sector, for example as day labourers or by collecting and reselling plastic and other scrap materials. None of these activities can be carried out during the lockdown, depriving these families of the basis for their livelihoods.

Macedonian Caritas calls on all citizens to strictly adhere to the adopted measures to protect the health of everyone and to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus. People should call their elderly relatives and friends on the phone, especially those who are alone, to encourage them and to show them that someone cares.