Government focuses on vulnerable citizen groups with its three-phase plan.
By Goran Trajkov for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 11/01/13
The proactive phase focuses on the homeless and the elderly. [Tomislav Georgiev/SETimes]
As large snowfalls begin and temperatures drop to dangerous levels, Skopje is rolling out its new weather action plan.
The plan, which was adopted in December 2012, includes the participation of several institutions, including the health ministry, the Centre for Crisis Management and the Red Cross of Macedonia.
"The plan is for professionals and institutions providing health and social care … to provide care to persons who are at risk in winter," Alexander Georgiev, government spokesman, told SETimes.
The plan provides three main phases, which are activated depending on the temperatures in the designated six regions in the country.
The proactive phase focuses on the homeless and the elderly. The Macedonian Red Cross, local self-government and social care centres provide shelters for the homeless, and health and social care for the elderly.
During the winter, four patrol teams of three social workers each will work to find the homeless who need help. Red Cross vehicles are assigned to take the homeless to the shelter centres.
"Warm bed, bath, clothes, food and drinks will be provided for the homeless who are without roof above their head. In the shelter, support will be provided by a doctor, psychologist and social worker. A logistics plan is being prepared that includes 40 employees and volunteers of the Red Cross of Skopje who will be on duty at the shelter centre," Aleksandra Ristovski, a Red Cross co-ordinator, told SETimes.
Phase 1, or the so-called yellow phase, launches a warning for citizens through the country's media -- with special emphasis on the most vulnerable groups -- to take care of their health.
Phase 2, the so-called orange phase or cold wave, rolls out recommendations from the government to employers to allow workers older than 60 years and pregnant women to remain home. The recommendations also will include shortened work days and reduced hours in educational institutions.
Assistance with food and medicine, heating and medical care for socially vulnerable categories also comes under this phase.
Phase 3 is activated in temperatures where the mobility of the roads is affected. Actions during this phase include securing the welfare of the elderly who live alone and people with special needs.
Ajredin Demirovska from the Bair settlement in Bitola is the beneficiary of social assistance.
"Red Cross teams from Bitola brought me blankets and food for my three children and me. At home, I also have a sick mother. There is also some medicine brought for her," she told SETimes.
"My wife is with special needs and I am a user of social assistance. Red Cross gave us some food, but also a doctor came who prescribed appropriate drugs, some of them are basic and they gave them as help," Skopje resident Ilija Andonoski told SETimes.
Macedonia is the first country in the region to implement an action plan for cold weather.
In Turkey, while there is no national "plan," each municipality, through their social services departments, are tasked to help homeless people find a place to live during winter. Turks are required to alert authorities to any homeless person they see needing shelter via a telephone hotline.
In 2012, Istanbul hosted more than 1,000 homeless people under big sport areas. The country has also made the use of winter tires mandatory on commercial vehicles to prevent accidents.
In Romania, volunteers work to feed the homeless, but when it comes to shelter, many are left out in the cold in the winter. It is estimated by NGOs in the country that about 5,000 people live in poor conditions, with 300 dying annually due to the cold.