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Slovak survey of 450 settlements finds 80 % of households depend on borrowing money illegally

3.7.2020 8:30
The Romani settlement of Stráňany in the town of Michalovce, Košice Region, Slovakia (2012). [PHOTO:   Lukáš Houdek]
The Romani settlement of Stráňany in the town of Michalovce, Košice Region, Slovakia (2012). [PHOTO: Lukáš Houdek]

News server Aktuality.sk reports that according to recent research, the average household in a Romani settlement in Slovakia has four members and the average age of those living there is roughly 25 - it is rare to find seniors over 65 there. Those are just some of the findings of the national project survey called "Healthy Communities".

The survey took three years and was implemented by experts from the Faculty of Medicine at the PJ Šafárik University in Košice, covering approximately three-fourths of all excluded Romani localities in Slovakia. Researchers logged data in 450 excluded localities in more than 250 municipalities, predominantly in the Banská Bystrica, Košice and Prešov Regions.

The researchers asked almost 15 000 people, with the aid of health care assistants, about their living conditions in those places. "The most important thing this survey demonstrates in detail is that any ideas of an across-the-board, miraculous solution for what to do in these communities, which are frequently considered as one whole, are absurd," summarized Andrej Belák, an anthropologist who led the research and summarized its findings during a presentation earlier this week.

"Even within the confines of very small territories there are big differences between the combinations of problems that each settlement experiences," the research leader said. The survey focused on several aspects of the life of Romani people in these settlements.

The data found that more than 180 000 individuals are living in 32 000 housebolds in the 450 localities that were surveyed. Most of the Romani families surveyed did not have many members or more than two generations in a household, with an average of 4.6 members per family.

For each municipality, there are an average of two excluded localities. Three-quarters of the settlements have 1 000 inhabitants or less.

The average age of settlement residents is 25. Senior citizens comprise just 5 % of the population of the settlements surveyed.

Minors comprise roughly half of the population of the settlements. Almost 60 % of children in the settlements surveyed attend "special school".

The researchers also focused on lifestyle questions and found that after households receive their paycheck or their welfare benefit, about 14 % of them cannot afford to indulge in fresh fruit or vegetables, and almost 27 % of households are unable to afford to do so in the last days before their paycheck or welfare benefit arrives. Half of respondents said they would like to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.

To an overwhelming degree, this lack of nutrition is likely influenced by their financial situations. The average income from legal, official sources per household is EUR 511 per month, and if a household has just one member, the average such income is EUR 81 per month.

"The existence of a hidden epidemic was confirmed to us - in almost every tenth household, somebody regularly uses medication for their mental health. The people have developed strategies for how to access prescription drugs and take them in high amounts," the research leader pointed out.

"Women especially take medication for mental stress," Belák reported. Half of the households have been officially given the status of being in "material distress", and one-third of the people living in the areas surveyed are long-term unemployed.

Approximately 15 % of the households surveyed have a member drawing a disability pension and 20 % are unable to save money. As many as 80 % of the households surveyed have to borrow money illegally to make ends meet.

fk, Aktuality.sk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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settlement, Slovakia, study, Unemployment



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