Coronavirus pandemic in B&H
Mr.sc. Nuna Zvizdić, Sarajevo, April, 2020
B&H is a deeply polarized state, led by weak governments that have not worked in the best interests of their citizens and people for the last thirty years. We live in a decade-long fundamentalism of nationalist policies that constantly keeps us in a social and political crisis, on the brink of a new war. And now the crisis caused by the COVID 19 pandemic has arrived and forced us to a total reset. This crisis has shown all the weaknesses in the departments of finance, health, economy, labor and social policy, culture and sports. Negative consequences are inevitable.
Experts point out that the Coronavirus pandemic will affect budgets in B&H at all levels. The report “COVID-19, economic consequences for B&H, measures and solutions” made by economists for the Friedrich Naumann Sarajevo Foundation (the foundation was founded by the German Liberal Party FDP –editor’s note), states that to remedy the negative consequences in 2020 alone, two billion convertible marks (one billion euros) will be needed.
Healthcare, although on the first line of defense against the virus, is facing a lot of problems. It is not known who prescribes the algorithms (clear presentation of the current rights of patients and healthcare professionals in their application) and who is in charge of the correct implementation. WHO recommendations on testing as many citizens as possible are not being followed. The capacities of the public health sector for testing the Corona virus cannot meet the real needs. Hospitals have almost stopped providing services to patients who are not infected with the virus.
Unfortunately, we are not a society that knew how to deal with this crisis. We performed tests slowly, monitored the situation and isolated parts of municipalities, cantons and entities affected by the infection. Therefore, we could neither see how quickly the infection would spread nor predict our adequate responses.
About 28,000 workers in the Federation of B&H (FB&H) and about 2,000 workers in the Republic Srpska (RS) have lost their jobs since mid-March 2020, when emergency measures were intensified in B&H to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.
The most endangered is the service industry. Catering, trade, but also processing were particularly affected. The workers of small and medium enterprises were mostly hit.
Concrete measures are being delayed, especially in the Federation of B&H entity. Many craft shops, small and medium enterprises, were closed. Authorities at the time of the coronavirus pandemic want to change the Labor Law and please employers to introduce the institute of waiting and so that employers can unilaterally send workers on vacation or make decisions about reducing working hours.
Large companies will recover easier and faster, but small companies and trades will not. Fear of disease will continue to be present, and this will be reflected in caterers, tourism workers, taxi drivers and so on. And a large number of people in our country work on these jobs.
All public gatherings are prohibited. Kindergartens, schools, colleges, cinemas, museums, theaters were closed. One of the main recommendations of the local crisis headquarters was and remains a ban on leaving the house for people over 65 and children under 18. We, these vulnerable groups, are more present in the virtual than in the real world. Work has moved from the office to the home environment. Overnight, life came to a halt and adapted to the new conditions of safety and protection.
The rate of domestic violence increased during this period of confinement in homes, because it is easiest to divert aggression, to redirect it to those who are innocent, and at the same time powerless. And these are usually family members who either can’t or don’t want to reciprocate. Stress, alcohol consumption and financial difficulties are considered triggers for domestic violence, and the quarantine measures introduced will increase all three. Social distancing and self-isolation are used as weapons of coercion and control of behavior by the perpetrator, thus closing all “exits” to security and support.
In an election year (local elections scheduled for October), it is difficult to hear a decent, caring and common sense response to the virus from ruling politicians and leaders. Every day, in their statements of total incompetence, disorientation and egoism, they spread panic and fear that feed their potential voters. According to the tried and tested scenarios, they are trying to turn the social dissatisfaction of their own people into hatred towards each other.
When I look at the current positioning of women in B&H, I could fall in despair. In B&H, no women have been able to enter the three-member presidency. There is no parity between men and women in the Council of Ministers. Two women are in high political positions, the president of the RS entity and the vice president of the Federation of B&H. Five women were elected mayors in the 2016 local elections. One in the entity Federation of B&H (Visoko) and 4 in the entity RS (Mrkonjić grad, Jezero, Kalinovik and Novo Goražde). The CEC proposed that the elections be postponed, but the leaders of the political parties did not agree to the proposal.
And what after the pandemic?
Dodik says: “Bosnia and Herzegovina will no longer exist”! Some politicians from Serbia want the unification of Serbs from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. It is not clear where and how the merger will take place. The virus, which is both pathogenic and political, can lead us to conflict, hatred, vulnerability and disenfranchisement in these emergencies if we do not deny policymakers the “opportunity” to determine our identities and not ourselves, we learned that lesson in the war. .
If we do not have an immediate response to solidarity, a “worsening virus of selfish indifference” awaits us, threatening to exclude and isolate from recovery many social groups such as migrants, the homeless, the Roma, the LGB.
As much as this crisis is global and long-lasting, economic and medical, it also offers an opportunity. This could be the first pandemic to include gender and gender differences in all research, taking into account respondents, researchers and policy makers. Policymakers still embrace a gender-neutral approach to pandemics. For too long, politicians have accepted that caring for children and the elderly can be “done” by unemployed citizens, mostly women.
The true extent of that female unpaid work, this pandemic should finally reveal. Opportunities for collecting high-quality data that will be useful for the future should also not be missed. For example, we have little data on how coronavirus-like viruses affect pregnant women, women with cancer and mental illness, poor women, unemployed women, women who have lost their jobs.
The mobilization of the “government” against the virus revealed all its weaknesses and chaos in crisis management. We are witnessing that despite all the differences that exist between the coalition partners in power, they can act together, but also that people can change their behavior in a very short time. Let’s use these insights. This crisis is not as catastrophic as the war, but it will have far-reaching consequences in all areas of life. This is an opportunity to show solidarity and empower ourselves to demand changes that will drastically change the system and society.