COVID-19 in Bosnia and Herzegovina: The stories behind the numbers

Published: Sep 8, 2020 Reading time: 3 minutes
COVID-19 in Bosnia and Herzegovina: The stories behind the numbers
© People in Need

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak in Bosnia and Herzegovina, People in Need (PIN), together with SUMERO, our partner organisation, has been working to bring vital aid to some of the country’s most vulnerable people and organisations. Each one of them has a story.

Every number tells a story, but in humanitarian development work, stories are more than facts and figures. Our program in Bosnia and Herzegovina illustrates this point.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the country, we’ve been working with PIN’s Club of Friends to provide digital solutions and socially-distanced assistance to people with disabilities, as well as to distribute personal protective equipment to health care workers. 

So far, we’ve reached 20 local communities at more than 50 distribution points, and have provided support to 125 beneficiaries and 50 staff members at community-based living facilities. We have also aided nine local organisations.

Behind these impressive numbers, of course, are stories of sacrifice, hardship, and perseverance.

Consider, for instance, Salko’s experience. The COVID-19 lockdown left him with very little access to the services that he and other people with disabilities rely on. So Salko was forced to celebrate his birthday alone. The local NGO where he usually attends workshops and sporting events was closed, and visits to health care providers and psychologists were almost impossible to arrange. Salko’s friends could not come visit him, and his biggest wish was to be able to ‘’see friends on the screen.’’ With the support of PIN and Salko’s health care assistants, he is now able to use digital solutions to see his friends online.

"Everyone is cleaning and disinfecting something"

Selma’s story also has a happy ending. She moved from an orphanage in Tuzla to a supported housing community in Sarajevo two years ago, and at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, she volunteered to clean the support centre of SUMERO (in addition to designing and distributing hygiene packages). “I am sure I can find a job if I learn to clean and maintain indoor spaces properly,” she told us in March. “Just look around, everyone is cleaning and disinfecting something. Please count on me.”

After just a few months, Selma became a valuable member of the cleaning team, and in early August, she secured her first paid job at a socially responsible company.

Even stories that start out tragically have a silver lining. Nedžad’s COVID-19 saga is a case in point. In April 2020, he found himself homeless while most of the world was in isolation. He had come to Sarajevo from Croatia on a short trip to attend a friend's funeral, but was unable to return after the borders were closed. Most of his belongings were left behind in Croatia, where he works as a seasonal construction worker. Sarajevo’s social care system could not offer him accommodation, as everything was under lockdown. Nedžad received emergency accommodation at the SUMERO support centre and, very soon, he became a valuable member of the support team. Today he works on project activities and maintenance.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we continue to expand our support. Along the way, we will always remember that behind every metric of success is a personal story worth retelling.

Author: Sanja Lepic

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