While it has often been proven that Roma experience extensive discrimination, violence and social exclusion, a new report financed by the European Commission also reveals that this has an overall negative impact on their health.
The Roma Health Report calls on international agencies as well as governments to take action to protect the health and well-being of Roma people.
The study covers the 28 EU countries as well as Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, with a deeper focus on countries with larger (migrant) Roma populations, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK.
The Commission says Roma communities in Europe suffer from discrimination and consequently face barriers accessing good quality housing, health care and education.
In a survey, one third of Roma respondents aged 35 to 54 say health problems are limiting their daily activities. While around 20% of Roma respondents are not covered by medical insurance, 66% say they would not be able to afford prescription drugs.
The report also states that there is consistent evidence demonstrating that the Roma population has considerably shorter life expectancy compared to the non-Roma population. For example in Austria, regional estimates suggest the mortality rate for Roma at regional level is 14% higher than for the rest of the country. Higher rates of infant mortality among Roma have also been observed in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, and in the Czech Republic.
While no country systematically reports comprehensive data of Roma health status, evidence indicates that Roma in Bulgaria are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of measles and hepatitis A, B, and C. Rates of HIV infection have been evidenced amongst the most socially excluded Roma, such as prisoners, drug addicts and prostitutes.
In 2009, an outbreak of measles in Bulgaria revealed that 89.3% of the 24,047 persons affected were of Roma origin, and 22 out of the 24 deaths were Roma patients.
“Roma populations in Europe are in poorer health than non-Roma populations,” the Commission stated in the report. “But while sufficient data on Roma exists to evidence social and economic exclusion, and poor health, there are still vast gaps in Roma health status data which impede any full understanding of the situation,” it said.
The Roma are Europe's largest ethnic minority, EU figures show.
The European Commission estimates the Roma population in the EU at 11 million, with their origins tracing back to mediaeval India.
Census statistics show that 535,000 Roma live in Romania, 370,000 in Bulgaria, 205,000 in Hungary, 89,000 in Slovakia and 108,000 in Serbia. Some 200,000 Roma are estimated to live in the Czech Republic and Greece, while 500,000 live in Turkey.
- Health: Roma Health Report