Serbia’s government has been urged to collect and share data on COVID-19 infections and deaths inside institutions for people with disabilities.
Six organizations representing people with disabilities and human rights groups wrote to Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on July 31, saying that understanding the impact of COVID-19 on people in institutions is impossible without transparent and complete data.
“It is not known how many people with disabilities living in institutions across Serbia have died or been infected with COVID-19,” said Milan Sverepa, director of Inclusion Europe.
The government said in April that 574 people living in institutions had been infected. Sverepa said it is “deeply worrisome” that how many of them may have died remains unknown.
Based on government figures for 2019, more than 14,512 adults and children, including people with disabilities, live in state-run institutions in Serbia.
The groups that sent the letter to Brnabic are Inclusion Europe, the European Network on Independent Living, Validity Foundation, Disability Rights International, Mental Disability Rights Initiative Serbia (MDRI-S), and Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Since April, Human Rights Watch and MDRI-S have sought information on what steps the government has taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in residential institutions, HRW said in a news release.
The government has not provided the information sought, HRW said.
“An important part of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is understanding the scale and circumstances of infections and deaths,” said Emina Cerimovic, senior disability rights researcher at HRW.
“Collecting this data is necessary to inform government policy, decision-making, and response. Publishing this data helps the wider public understand the impact of the outbreak on social care institutions.”