In many European countries, the media focus is on the rising numbers of infections caused by the Omicron mutation and the measures prescribed to combat them. However, a report from North Macedonia shows that other numbers are also rising.
In Strumica, a town in the southeastern part of North Macedonia, Corona is an omnipresent issue. This is the case in general, but it is even more true for the "Miss Stone" Center of the UMC. The help provided by the staff of this center is primarily aimed at the elderly and infirm. In order to be able to offer them the necessary care, a great deal of organizational talent, special hygiene measures and also improvisation is required. Unfortunately, the rising number of cases is also accompanied by a high death rate – a reality that is due not least to the poor medical care in the country.
In addition to the cold, the massive increases in energy and food prices are also extremely burdensome. Some people are faced with the decision of either heating or eating. But the "Meals on Wheels" project of the "Miss Stone" Center, which has been in existence for over 20 years, is also facing a major challenge: How can price increases of up to 30% for staple foods and even 100% for individual products such as cooking oil be managed without having to reduce the quality of the meals? The fact that fruit and vegetable stocks could be built up in the fall by canning – for example, 750 kg of white cabbage for the popular meal Sarma (cabbage rolls) – helps in this situation, but is only able to alleviate the general emergency to a limited extent.
In Radovish, too, the number of people in need of help is constantly increasing, and the aid offered there should actually be expanded. However, this is not possible due to the exhausted capacity of the kitchen in the "Miss Stone" Center and the lack of financial resources. Thus, 50 hot meals continue to be served from Monday to Friday.
The home care project, another branch of work of the "Miss Stone" Center, covers a great need of elderly and mobility-impaired people. For example, there is Slobodanka Z., a 73-year-old widow. Her two children live elsewhere and cannot or do not want to take care of her. When she took a bad fall a few months ago and broke her ankle, she was bedridden for weeks. The home care team then tried to get Slobodanka Z. back on her feet with regular visits, special exercises and massage. With orthopedic help, she is now able to cope with life again more or less independently. She also received psychological support during this difficult time, now gets a regular hot meal through "Meals on Wheels", and she is always very happy when she is visited by employees of the "Miss Stone" Center.
The leaders of the counseling center for Roma girls in Ohrid, another service offered by Diakonia North Macedonia, saw firsthand the severe consequences of the pandemic on the psyche and personality development of young people. "Society and the health care system have completely failed, the social services are invisible, and needy children and teenagers are left to their fate," writes Christina Cekov from Strumica in a report.
Whether the people are very old or still have a large part of their lives ahead of them: Those responsible for the various projects do their utmost to offer them help, to take the necessary steps with them and in this way to open up hopeful perspectives for them.
Source: Dijakonija Severna Makedonija / Christina Cekov / Urs Schweizer, Assistant to the Bishop
Photo: Martin Konev