More efficient work of roma healthcare mediators

The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Serbia, UNICEF Serbia, and Telenor expand their partnership with a view to improve the health and social status of Roma families
Minister of Health Dr. Zlatibor Lončar, UNICEF Serbia Representative Michel Saint-Lot and Telenor CEO Ove Fredheim today signed an agreement to continue cooperation within the “Povezivanje” project, which is meant to improve the health and quality of life among the Roma people living in Serbia through enlisting services provided by healthcare mediators.
The healthcare mediators project was launched in 2008 by the Ministry of Health. UNICEF and Telenor joined in on the project in order to – by securing additional trainings, computers, and mobile phones – help establish a system of recording and monitoring the health status of Roma children and families, as well as of service provision in the local communities. 

“The results of our analysis of the so far performance of the healthcare mediators propels us to draw attention to the indisputable fact that the goal of the Roma healthcare mediator, to act as a link between the healthcare system and the Roma community has been fully attained,” Minister Lončar said, noting that we also mustn’t forget about socially responsible companies like Telenor and other international organizations, such as UNICEF, with whom the Ministry of Health maintains intensive cooperation and whose support so far surely contributed greatly to the project’s admirable results.
This continued partnership will help establish better and more effective connectedness between the local communities, Roma population, Roma healthcare mediators, and healthcare system. For the first time, thanks to this project, now our country has a database on the Roma which is used by state institutions.
“The Povezivanje project is an excellent example of how Telenor takes on significant social issues and tries to resolve them by applying long-term solutions. In addition, this project ties in our company’s main business with socially responsible activities, which lies at the core of our corporate social responsibility,” said Ove Fredheim, Telenor’s CEO, and added, “Telenor Group and UNICEF entered into a global cooperation agreement that involves both financial and technical support aimed at the social inclusion of underprivileged groups in every country where Telenor operates. The Povezivanje project has found its place on the global map of socially responsible business, positioning itself as an example of excellent cooperation between the state, non-governmental, and corporate sectors that prompted positive social change.”
“In just a few years, the Roma healthcare mediators have made great progress in the lives of Roma families. Not only did their efforts drastically increase accessibility to healthcare services and cut the mortality rate among Roma children in Roma settlements by half, but they also helped Roma families exercise many other rights they are entitled to,” UNICEF Serbia Representative Michel Saint-Lot stated. He extended special thanks to Telenor, whose “involvement in providing assistance to children should serve as inspiration to the entire private sector in Serbia when it comes to promoting actual social responsibility and the culture of giving.”
These healthcare mediators are women who work at healthcare centers and who are trained to educate Roma families about the possibilities of preventing and treating diseases, about vaccinations and exercising all rights in the area of healthcare. The Roma mediators have evolved from healthcare professionals to social workers – they have become a unique link between the Roma community and the institutional system as a whole.
This project includes 75 Roma healthcare mediators in 59 cities and municipalities across Serbia. So far, a total of 140,408 Roma individuals living in slums have been registered, out of which 50,754 are children and 46,453 are women. The mediators facilitated a selected pediatrician for each child, as well as higher inclusion of pregnant women in prenatal and postnatal healthcare services. They are also to be thanked for securing healthcare cards and personal identification documents for Roma people, and their efforts also helped increase the number of children from Roma settlements who are now attending school.