Dear Mr. Madelin,
I am sorry, that I cannot be here with you in person, but please let me share some of my thoughts on health inequalities affecting Roma communities.
European Roma, with an estimated population of 12-15 million constitute the largest and most dynamically growing ethnic minority of the European Union. A large number of Roma however, face an intolerable extent of social exclusion and poverty, resulting in substandard conditions regarding employment, education, housing and health care. Three interconnected factors can be identified behind the terrible medical situation and unequal access to health care affecting a large number of Roma.
The first cause is connected to poor living conditions, since a considerable proportion of Roma communities live in slums, which carry serious social, environmental and hygienic dangers. Extraordinary congestion, incomplete gas and water supply as well as the almost complete lack of public utilities and sewage disposal are generally typical of these settlements. In the great majority of the flats there is no water closet, and in many places the level of underground water is so high, that it is impossible to set up either a well, or an earth closet and the buildings are continuously soaking. Largely as a result of exceptionally bad living conditions therefore, the life expectancy of Roma lags far behind the majority society’s average and several viral sickness appears significantly more frequently among them..
The second factor, closely related to living conditions, is the geographical segregation of settlements, which results in isolated Roma communities being left out from obligatory medical supplies, vaccinations, and screenings, not to mention preventive measures. As a result of this, diseases of the heart and vascular system, neural and organoleptic diseases, as well as complaints of the bone and muscular system occur much more frequently among Roma who live in these settlements.
The third reason is the articulate discrimination experienced in many of the health care facilities. Such violations of human rights have been documented, as the persistent separation of Roma mothers in obstetric departments and in some Member States even the forced sterilization of Roma women.
Compound challenges require a complex solution: ghetto areas uniting diverse disadvantages need immediate remedy, which simultaneously tackles the problems in their complexity, because dropped behind areas hamper social development in its entirety. Preventive measures and rehabilitative treatments must be made fully accessible – in some cases even compulsory – and discriminatory treatments must be suspended and the infringements remedied.
Thank you for your attention, I wish you a fruitful conference.