Agriculture in MoldovaMoldova has high rates of poverty, with nearly a quarter of the population living under the national poverty line in 2021. The nation also has the largest farmland area as a share of its total land surface at 75%, 30% above the European average. Also, the agricultural sector employs over 25% of the labor force.

The prominence of agriculture in the Moldovan economy means that innovation and investment in technology in this sector could have a huge influence on not just the sector but the economy as a whole. To this end, there has been an emergence of drones serving to improve agriculture in Moldova, bringing major efficiencies and modernizing farming techniques.

Drones Improving Efficiency

Drones in Moldovan agriculture drastically increase the efficiency of agricultural processes such as pest and weed management alongside minimizing the waste of farming resources. For example, DRON Assistance, a company providing intelligent drone services to Moldovan farmers, estimates that drone technology’s sensors, imaging capabilities and consequent precision to spray herbicides use up to 20 times less water than a tractor would use. This could help Moldovan farmers save money and therefore make more profits, boosting the agricultural sector as a result. Furthermore, the fact that drones are aerial and do not make physical contact with the landscape means less damage to farmlands and crops compared to tractors, as well as releasing reduced amounts of fossil fuels.


According to UNDP, DRON Assistance offers an array of mapping and monitoring services that can analyze crop health and more accurately identify disease outbreaks at early stages. This helps farmers make interventions on time to address problems that they would have otherwise missed without such information. More sophisticated farmland monitoring abilities can also help in directing labor and resources for more general tasks.

More Good News

The potential utility of drones in Moldovan agriculture is still yet to be fully utilized, with new innovations constantly coming to light. DRON Assistance is currently working on technology that leverages AI to remotely monitor crops and reduce the need for human input. This could increase the productivity of Moldovan farms.

Furthermore, DRON Assistance has received grants from UNDP and the EU of $40,000 and €25,000 respectively. This gesture aims to make drones more affordable and accessible for Moldovan farmers, making the benefits more universal to the entire agricultural sector.

The International Trade Administration (ITA) has also marked high-value agriculture in Moldova as a niche that U.S. investors could venture into in the years ahead. Whilst agriculture remains a bedrock of the Moldovan economy, high-value agriculture remains relatively underdeveloped, despite the nation’s rich natural resources, fertile soil and favorable conditions.

Looking Ahead

In Moldova, the utilization of drones in agriculture holds immense potential for improving efficiency, reducing waste and modernizing farming techniques. Ongoing innovations and grants received by companies like DRON Assistance, along with the recognition of high-value agriculture as an investment opportunity, bode well for the future of the agricultural sector in Moldova.

– Saul Gunn
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in the Republic of MoldovaThe Republic of Moldova, a landlocked country between Ukraine and Romania, is considered to be one of the poorest countries in Europe. Unfortunately, the economic state of the country, coupled with a legacy of corrupt government practices, has made it difficult to fund and sustain its health care system. However, since 2007, several programs and legislation have targeted health care in Moldova.

The State of Health Care

The life expectancy in Moldova averaged 72.2 years as of 2018. It has improved significantly from the 2000s, when life expectancy fell to the mid-60s, but remains one of the lowest in the WHO European region.

The European Health Observatory reported that in 2021, Moldova had mandatory health insurance that covered 88% of the population. The sanitation in Moldova is good, with 89.9% of Moldovan people using improved sanitation systems that direct waste into a sewer system.

However, according to The Moldova Project, Moldovan families only have $188 a month to access essentials, including but not limited to health care. Furthermore, 44% of the Moldovan population does not have access to improved water.

What the Government is Doing

The government launched health care reforms in 2004. Between 2007 and 2013, the priority of the Moldovan government’s health strategy was the prevention and mitigation of diseases and risk factors. The health strategy changed in 2014 and continued until 2020, placing focus on sustainable well-being through enhanced public health services.

The government sought to modernize the health care system in 2016, which continued to be a priority until 2018. The same year, the Ministry of Health created Public Health Councils to improve the quality of health care, to ensure the implementation of legislative acts and to coordinate the activities of medical facilities. These councils exist in each district under the Centres of Public Health.

The Republic of Moldova redirects 6.8% of the country’s GDP into health care. While this is not the lowest percentage spent on health care in Europe, it is less than the 9.83% average of the world and less than its neighboring country, Ukraine.

How Foreign Aid Helps

On top of the government prioritizing sustainable health and well-being, various organizations are extending help to improve health care in Moldova.

One example of this is The Health Services and Social Assistance Project, which set multiple targets to improve health care in the Republic of Moldova. The World Bank released a report on this project in 2015 that demonstrated notable success. The Health Services and Social Assistance Project achieved its goal of the National Health Insurance allocating 30% of its budget to primary care, implemented a training program for family doctors and introduced 75 new protocols, which surpassed its goal of 60.

It had aimed to construct 65 health centers but was only able to construct 38 as a result of unforeseen construction costs. It did surpass its goal of renovating 74 health facilities, as it had renovated 77. The Health Services and Social Assistance Project aimed to have 80% of the population with mandatory health insurance, and surpassed this target with 85% of the population having mandatory health insurance in 2014.

The Moldova Project Gives Aid Through Health Care

Established in 2008, The Moldova Project typically aids single-parent families with three or more children. Many of these parents experience addiction, unemployment and poor mental health. The Moldova Project takes a multifaceted approach by providing a range of services, such as subsistence packets, clothes, home repairs and health care.

The organization offers and provides medical assistance, including treatments for serious illnesses and surgeries, to all beneficiaries. Without intervention, these injuries and illnesses would worsen. Each year, the organization helps provide approximately 200 medical interventions in Moldova. Additionally, The Moldova Project has a psychological support program to aid health care in the Republic of Moldova. This program can provide up to 900 sessions a year, including round-the-clock support to families, psychological support for youths and counseling for parents.

How WHO Helps Moldovans Access Health Care

The World Health Organization also promotes health in the Republic of Moldova. The first WHO office in Moldova was established in 1995 and the Country Office profile was upgraded in 2011. The current Head of the Country Office for Moldova invests in activities that support national policy development.

The World Health Organization has mobilized young people and carried out multiple awareness campaigns in Moldova to promote the COVID-19 vaccination. It even has football players engaged in its efforts. In March 2023, they implemented a training course on health workforce leadership to maintain a strong health force. The course is also in Armenia, Romania, Georgia and North Macedonia, and allows participants to interpret and apply evidence to policy, along with other skills.

While there are difficulties for Moldovans accessing health and well-being facilities, the future looks optimistic. The country has seen overall improvements in health care in the last two decades. As long as organizations like WHO and The Moldova Project support the country, health care should continue to improve.

– Lachlan Griffiths
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Moldova
The Republic of Moldova’s share of the aging population is growing. In 2022, persons aged 60 and older accounted for 22.8% of the total population, and, by 2040, this demographic is projected to account for about 33% of the total population. The dynamics of such a change in the population demographic foreshadow an increased risk of financial deprivation for Moldova’s aging population. Though the government last recorded the rate of elderly poverty in Moldova at 13.8% in the 2014 census, the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) found that, in 2020, only about a fifth of persons older than 60 felt that their income afforded them the economic security to live comfortably. While acknowledging that the elderly poverty experience reaches beyond just low-income levels, one of the mainstays of elderly poverty in Moldova is the challenge of the pension system’s sustainability to provide sufficient income to current and future generations of pensioners.

Moldova’s Pension System

In the past, Moldova’s pension system could not provide a sufficient safety net to allow beneficiaries to maintain a decent standard of living, with average replacement rates amounting to a mere 25% before the latest pension system reform in 2017. This is alarming considering that the European Code of Social Security recommended in Convention No. 102 that the minimum replacement rate should stand at 40%. However, even a 40% replacement rate may not be enough to prevent persons from falling into poverty if the benefits stand as the person’s sole income.

The Borgen Project had the opportunity to interview Elizaveta Covalciuc, a retired teacher from Micleuseni, Moldova, who noted the financial struggles she faced after contributing to the country’s social fund. In 1998, her pension only amounted to 114 MDL or $28. “I was disappointed that I had not been able to make a decent living after many years of contributing to the pension fund,” notes Covalciuc who had to return to work after reaching retirement age to make ends meet.

Fortunately, the system has increased in its efficiency and raised indexation over the years. As of October 2021, the current minimum state pension that a beneficiary can receive is 2,000 MDL, equal to $430.28. However, shortcomings remain. With the recent major shocks such as the strain on Moldova’s economy via the influx of refugees from Ukraine and the consumer price inflation of basic goods, pensions cannot sufficiently cover the current costs of living. Indeed, the Minister of Labour and Social Protection Marcel Spatari confirmed in November 2022 that the government could not afford to match the indexation rate of pensions to the current rate of inflation of 30%.

Challenges for Future Pensioners

A pension system is reliant upon the sustainable contributions that the current workforce is capable of contributing and is an integral cornerstone of a country’s social cohesion.

There is a great burden upon Moldova’s current workforce to support the social services that pensioners depend on for their livelihoods. To illustrate, the age dependency ratio had a rating of 50% in 2019 and stood at 6% higher than the EU’s. This strain upon contribution levels to the pension fund is exacerbated by factors such as high emigration, low employment rates and the prevalence of undeclared work. Such factors threaten the possibility of decreased social security coverage over time. The government must address these issues to ensure the current pension system is able to distribute sufficient income for pensioners.

It is important to acknowledge that the Moldovan government is taking steps to introduce policies and programs that aim to ease the strain of pension fund contributions placed on individuals. One notable example is the introduction of Law No.242 in July 2022. Before this law, there was no minimum contribution requirement for employers toward social security. Now, the compulsory contribution rate stands at 25% of each of their employee’s minimum salary, guaranteeing at least 875 MDL ($47) contributed per employee. While the legislation only had legal force in October 2022, this is a great first step to ensuring the security of future pensioners.

Additionally, the government has signed social security agreements with 16 countries in Europe to ensure the pension rights of citizens who have emigrated from Moldova to work in those countries. While the results from such agreements are currently unknown, this is another positive sign of improvements toward ensuring security for Moldova’s elderly citizens.

Looking forward, the path toward eliminating elderly poverty in Moldova is certainly not without challenges but with the government making it a priority to implement policies sensitive to the needs of the elderly and to strengthen demographic resilience, further progress is on its way.

– Lucy Gebbie
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Moldova
With a poverty rate of 26.8% in 2020, Moldova ranks as the fourth poorest country in Europe. Corresponding issues including the difficulty of obtaining employment, harsh living conditions and limited access to already low-quality public services devastate the nation’s quality of life. Compounded by the hardship of socioeconomic stressors and governmental destitution, mental health in Moldova has suffered as a result.

Overview of Mental Health in Moldova

Mental disorders related to systemic issues in Moldova have caused 17.34% of the population to be diagnosed with mental illnesses, according to the Health Policy article. Tragically, these issues go hand-in-hand with Moldova’s comparatively high suicide rate of 14.7 people per 100,000 — 3.4 people more than the EU average of 2019. Another major component of mental illness in Moldova is alcoholism, with one in four deaths in Moldova being attributed to alcohol. In comparison, the world average is one in 20.

Systemic Issues with Moldovan Health Care

Socioeconomic issues within the populace and the government’s mismanagement of resources have exacerbated the mental health situation in Moldova. Mandatory health insurance finances the public health care system. According to a study published in The Lancet “out-of-pocket payments account for 45% of total health expenditure in Moldova,” causing Moldova’s health expenditure to fall behind the European average by 77%.

Management of health care spending is a direct product of corruption within the Moldovan government. “Many things depend on the government and parliament, but we have such a quick turnover, there is no stability,” explains Valeriu Crudu of the Phthisiopneumology Institute Chişinău.

Recent Reforms

The Moldovan government has shown a willingness to implement reforms to the situation of mental health within the nation, such as by adopting the Mental Health Declaration for Europe and the Mental Health Action Plan for Europe, and developing a national mental health program in 2005. However, actual “community-based mental health services” have been difficult to implement.

According to an International Journal for Mental Health Services article, for one, a lack of access to resources, largely based in district centers and cities in the north, continues to prevent rural and impoverished Moldovans from obtaining help due to distance and travel costs. There has also been a notable lack of collaboration between medical and social services, producing confusion among service providers concerning psychiatric, neurologic and addicted patient treatment. Professionals in the health workforce argue that the knowledge gap between medical and social workers should be filled with specialized education regarding mental illness, especially in rural regions.

Looking Forward

Despite persistent obstacles, the National Mental Health Programme of 2014 — renewed in 2017 — continues to work towards reform through the development of a new legal framework for care and support for educational programs for professionals, according to the Health Policy article. Though policy change ultimately lies in the hands of the government, several organizations are also working simultaneously to ameliorate the mental health situation in Moldova.

For instance, the Open Society Mental Health Initiative is working towards improving the quality of living for Moldovans with mental illness or intellectual disabilities by relocating them to family-style living spaces where they can obtain comprehensive and stable care.

The organization also ensures that community efforts toward mental health improvement are sustainable and financially provided for. While organizations and government reforms have paved the way for gradual improvements in the mental health of Moldovan citizens, the fight toward a system of mental health care for all continues.

– Alisa Gulyansky
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Moldova
Human trafficking in Moldova is a particularly serious issue that corruption and the coronavirus pandemic have worsened. The U.S. State Department assigns different tiers to countries in its 2021 Trafficking in Persons report, with Tier 1 countries being the ones that have been most resistant to human trafficking through prosecution, prevention and protection for victims. Moldova is listed as a Tier 2 country.


Moldova’s classification demonstrates that the nation has taken steps to address the issues of human trafficking while not being entirely compliant with U.S. State Department guidelines. Moldova has begun “prosecuting more suspected traffickers, developing a new national referral mechanism (NRM), open[ed] a center for male trafficking victims, and commence[ed] construction of a center for child victims and witnesses of crime, including trafficking.” However, while human trafficking has been an interest of the Moldovan government, COVID-19 has severely undermined new prosecutorial programs as many state employees are “working remotely” and “In March 2020, the government closed courts and did not reopen them until June 2020.”

Secondly, corruption has been a significant limiting force to prosecutorial and preventative efforts. Specifically, even though government employees had received accusations of complicity in human trafficking, the government did not investigate or prosecute anyone. Unfortunately, Moldova failed to meet various “minimum standards” that the State Department set, as authorities in Moldova have recently “investigated, convicted, and identified fewer trafficking victims overall.”

UN Aid and the Centre

Luckily, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has taken steps to protect Moldovan human trafficking victims and to aid them in reassembling their lives. Beginning in 2003, the IOM  implemented a “comprehensive Prevention and Protection Programme.” The primary agent of this mission is the Assistance and Protection Centre, which acts as a refuge center for trafficking victims. The Centre offers an incredible array of services to victims of human trafficking in Moldova, including medical, psychological, social, legal and recreational aid.

Personal Stories From the Centre

The IOM also presents a variety of personal stories relating to the Centre and gives examples of how donated funds may help aid victims. For instance, the IOM webpage on the Moldovan Centre relayed the story of Natalia, whose traffickers offered domestic work in Turkey before they kidnapped her and forced her into providing sexual services. The IOM also indicated how funds can help people like Natalia repair their lives, specifically in regard to obtaining copies of documents and relevant records necessary for employment and travel. The IOM also identified how funds can aid victims materially, specifying that “A donation of US $250 will buy clothes and shoes for a victim like Natalia.”

This type of assistance is especially significant considering that many of Moldova’s trafficking victims in the past have been young migrant women lured with fake passports from neighboring regions such as Romania and Ukraine, and the program previously installed to train Moldovan-Ukrainian border checkpoint officials to screen for signs of trafficking ended in 2016. Trafficking victims are not only often victims of poor migration infrastructure but also of prejudice, as “The undocumented or stateless population, including the Romani community,” are especially at risk.

The 2022 Trafficking in Persons report on Moldova concludes that of 312 identified trafficking victims, traffickers trafficked 277 for the purposes of forced labor, and the majority of victims were girls. Despite the limits of Moldovan intervention, the IOM reported fantastic results, claiming that it and the Centre aided 3,403 victims, including 337 children by the end of 2017. This is a noteworthy result as Moldova only reported “341 trafficking victims” in 2019.

Looking Ahead

Evidently, human trafficking in Moldova is a multifaceted issue without simple solutions, however, work that international organizations such as the IOM and its affiliated programs have provided helps victims of human trafficking in Moldova to recover a semblance of stability in their disrupted lives. Corruption and the COVID-19 pandemic have evidently hindered Moldova’s efforts to combat human trafficking, which demonstrates the necessity of international intervention through aid.

– Braden Hampton
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Corruption in Moldova
Moldova, a nation with one of the highest poverty rates among European countries, has a long history of political corruption that has stood in the way of progress. Though the nation’s path toward realizing democracy and greater economic prosperity has been complicated, recent democratic reforms offer hope for successfully combating domestic corruption in Moldova.

Moldova’s History of Corruption and Recent Embrace of Democracy

Discordant efforts towards combating domestic corruption in Moldova have taken place since 2005, when former President Vladimir Voronin, the Moldovan Communist Party leader, embraced a pro-democracy platform. While Moldova passed subsequent acts of legislation to address corruption, its justice system remained corrupt in many respects, as prosecutors and judges frequently received bribes or pressure to deliver court rulings that favored kleptocrats. In 2015, officers arrested and charged Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat for his role in a massive corruption scandal the previous year in which someone stole around $1 billion from Moldova’s three main banks.

In 2020, Moldova elected its first female president, Maia Sandu, who ran on an anti-corruption platform. During her campaign, Sandu pledged to reform Moldova’s courts. While President Sandu’s pro-European Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) won a majority in parliament, the government is still fighting an uphill battle to root out corruption. Going forward, these anti-corruption efforts will require increased support from civil society organizations, grassroots movements and NGOs to increase pressure on Moldova’s political elite. The nation has already adopted proportional representation in parliament, and Sandu’s government is actively promoting democratic reforms by working to improve Moldova’s business environment and limit monopolistic competition, promoting a free and independent press and improving labor conditions.

US Policymakers’ Efforts to Help Moldova

In light of Moldova’s recent democratic reforms and anti-corruption agenda, U.S. lawmakers have expressed views that more can occur in Washington to further these efforts. On July 29, 2022, ranking members of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees sent a joint bipartisan letter to the Biden Administration, urging the President to resolutely support Moldova’s reform efforts by announcing new sanctions on corrupt Moldovan figures. These sanctions, in accordance with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016, are necessary to further the Moldovan government’s aims to stabilize the nation, continue on a pro-democracy trajectory and build resilience against hostile Russian influence.

These sanctions are the latest development in the broader context of the U.S. government’s efforts to foster a strong diplomatic relationship with Moldova and encourage democratic governance in recent years. Over the past three decades, the U.S. has given more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian and economic aid to Moldova, and the top priorities for ongoing assistance to the nation include strengthening Moldova’s economic resilience, bolstering democratic institutions, preventing encroachments on the nation’s sovereignty, and reforming Moldova’s justice system. In April 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine (which shares a border with Moldova), USAID administered an additional $50 million in aid, intended to reinforce the Moldovan economy’s ability to withstand the significant strain and the war’s projected consequences. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the nation the month prior.

Looking Ahead

The positive trajectory towards democracy and combating domestic corruption in Moldova, as well as the remarkable ways in which the nation has helped Ukrainian refugees in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have captured the attention of U.S. policymakers. While there are still great strides for Moldova to make, the recent indications of progress in Moldova are promising, and they have ignited a sense of global urgency to further aid the nation, on the cusp of realizing democracy and greater economic prosperity, in its ongoing efforts.

– Oliver De Jonghe
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Moldova is Helping Ukrainian RefugeesA former republic of the Soviet Union, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with a poverty rate of 26.8% as of 2020. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova faced economic hardship, widespread corruption and political instability, but made progress between 2006 and 2015 toward national poverty reduction.

However, since early 2020, Moldova has experienced a series of intense economic shocks beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic that led to an estimated loss of nearly 8% of jobs across the nation, disproportionately affecting young workers. In 2020, Moldova also experienced one of the worst droughts in recent decades, which reduced agricultural production by 34%. In late 2021, the European gas crisis adversely affected the nation for several months, which increased gas prices by 400%, until Moldova’s government signed a new contract with a Russian-controlled gas company. By February 2022, Moldova was beginning to recover from these shocks, but the sudden outbreak of war when Russian forces invaded Ukraine threatened Moldova’s immediate economic recovery and future trajectory.

How Moldova is Helping Ukrainian Refugees

Despite the nation’s challenges, Moldova’s government and citizens have made remarkable efforts to help Ukrainian refugees. Since the start of the war, more than 460,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion have traveled through Moldova, with nearly 100,000 refugees choosing to remain in the nation. The Moldovan government immediately set up facilities for refugees, offering medical and psychological assistance at the war’s onset. Officials also extended the right to live and work in Moldova to Ukrainian refugees, along with access to health care services and education. Notably, 95% of the refugees are staying with Moldovan families.

Humanitarian Organizations Supporting Moldova’s Efforts

UNHCR, the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, has assisted the Moldovan government through a series of measures, expanding its staff by nearly 100 members in the nation since the crisis began. The agency is helping Ukrainian refugees and supporting the work of local authorities in Moldova by offering access to information, health and legal services, child protection services, initiatives to prevent human trafficking and gender-based violence as well as offering transportation to European Union countries. A core component of the UNHCR’s response effort is a cash assistance program that allows Ukrainian refugees to receive around 2,200 Moldovan Lei (equivalent to $120) each month. The process is facilitated through enrollment centers and mobile teams that help refugees enroll, and the program has already helped more than 50,000 refugees in Moldova receive cash.

The World Bank has also implemented initiatives to help Moldova build economic resilience and mitigate the impacts of the war in Ukraine. In June 2022, the World Bank allocated $159.24 million to Moldova as part of an Emergency Response, Resilience and Competitiveness Development Policy Operation (DPO). Moldova’s government remains committed to its social and economic developmental reform agenda, and this relief funding will allow the government to support the country’s immediate needs while also providing momentum for long-term recovery efforts.

– Oliver De Jonghe
Photo: Flickr

Slovak Republic Foreign Aid
According to the World Bank, the Republic of Moldova oversaw a reduction of extreme poverty in 2011 from 7% to a rate of 3.1% in 2013. Although the Republic of Moldova has made remarkable progress in reducing extreme poverty, the republic remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. However, the Slovak Republic’s foreign aid is helping communities in Moldova garner clean drinking water and more.

About the Republic of Moldova

The problems facing the Republic of Moldova in reducing poverty include a domestic economy that is highly dependent on agriculture and remittances, a severe drought in 2020 that obstructed agricultural production and the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside the problems, Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has put further strain on Moldova’s administrative capacity as the country is quickly approaching a point in which Moldova can no longer safely accept more refugees. The Republic of Moldova’s Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita asked the U.S. on March 6, 2022, to send more humanitarian aid assistance in response to  Moldova taking in more than 120,000 displaced people as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.

According to the United Nations 2020 Voluntary National Review on the Republic of Moldova, the country is working towards clean water access for the population. The road towards clean water for Moldova requires addressing the insufficient investment in the management of wastewater. It will also require renewed efforts in water resource management. The problems remain in part due to the lack of institutional reforms and how 54% of the drinking water samples do not meet the sanitary and chemical norms for drinking water quality.

The Republic of Moldova has increased its population’s access to water sources by 9%, to 82.1% at the end of 2018. Furthermore, the proportion of the rural population with access to water supply sources leaped from 56.9% in 2014 to 71.2% in 2018. One can credit this achievement in ensuring access to water sources for the Moldovan people to the continuing combined efforts of the Republic of Moldova, the Slovak Republic and the United States.

A Brief History

The Slovak Republic’s foreign aid programs warrant attention because this government recently joined the fight in eradicating poverty in developing countries. The Slovak Republic initially implemented its foreign aid programs in 2007 with the establishment of the Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation. The commitments of the programs were expanded upon when the Slovak Republic joined the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD in 2013.

Slovak Republic’s Foreign Aid Today

The scope of the foreign aid programs varies. The Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation (SAIDC) lists three ‘Programme Countries’ including Georgia, Kenya and Moldova. The government also has several ‘Partner Regions’ in which the cooperation provides foreign aid assistance including Eastern sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and the Western Balkans.

In 2020, the Slovak Republic provided $140 million in foreign aid, which represents 0.14% of the 2020 gross national income (GNI). This is a marked increase in foreign aid spending for the country. It places the country as the 26th largest Development Assistance Committee country when comparing the official development assistance it provides to its GNI.

To understand the work that the Slovak Republic’s foreign aid is doing, it is important to take a look at the programs the Slovak Republic is implementing in the Republic of Moldova. The problems that the Republic of Moldova is facing range from a stalemated conflict to complex political, economic and social developments, as well as emigration causing social problems, particularly in rural areas.

Additionally, the problems have compounded due to what SlovakAID deems as development challenges including most of the working-age population going abroad to work, long-term problems with the quality of water resources and drinking water supply, inefficient waste management, the existence of environmental burdens and weak development of the business community. Several of the problems facing the Republic of Moldova today result from inadequate infrastructure, especially water supply and treatment infrastructure which consequently further strains the agricultural sector of the economy.

Goals of SlovakAID in the Republic of Moldova

The three objectives of SlovakAID in Moldova encompass sharing Slovakia’s transition experience supporting a democratic stable Moldova, improving the quality of life and health of citizens via sustainable water management and improving the performance of the business sector.

How is the Slovak Republic Addressing These Problems?

The Slovak Republic employs a range of developmental tools varying from the provision of grants and financial contributions provided by the embassies of the Slovak Republic, Sharing Slovak Expertise programme activities, projects for the deployment of volunteers and expert volunteers, government scholarships and financial contributions.

Progress Towards Prosperity

SlovakAID is leading a project that seeks to improve the quality of life for people in the Ialoveni municipality in Moldova through improving access to clean drinking water and raising awareness about water management. SlovakAID initially started this project in January 2020 with a deadline of March 2022. SlovakAID’s project will support the provision of quality water and sanitation infrastructure, which includes the rehabilitation of 1,035 meters (3,395 feet) of the water connection system to ensure access to reliable drinking water. SlovakAID is also raising awareness regarding water management and environmental responsibility through education campaigns.

The Slovak Republic and its foreign aid recipients have already seen success in similar programs it has completed. In September 2021, the Slovak Republic, in collaboration with Shingala Azad NGO, successfully installed two water wells and a water reservoir that now supplies sufficient water to the people living in the municipalities of Shekhka and Hasan Ava in Iraq. This program’s success was due in part to educational programs raising awareness on water management similar to how SlovakAID is running in the Ialoveni municipality in the Republic of Moldova.

Exciting Developments in Development

According to USAID Administrator Samantha Powers, the Slovak Republic is a foreign aid success story in its own right, joining the EU in 2004 and becoming an international development donor after receiving USAID support between 1990 and 2000. On February 3, 2022, Administrator Samantha Powers and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Ivan Korčok held a meeting and signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

This memorandum calls for an additional three years of collaboration between SlovakAID and USAID. Through the previous MOU the Slovak Republic and USAID jointly supported community development in Moldova, enabling North Macedonia to continue making progress in its path towards joining the European Union and helping those without housing in Belgrade access clean water, sanitation and essential health care.

With this new MOU implemented, the Slovak Republic alongside USAID has renewed its continued commitment to eradicating extreme poverty around the world. Investment in the Slovak Republic via U.S. foreign aid and USAID has shown continued returns on investment. The Slovak Republic has since affirmed its place in the fight against global poverty as the country recently became the 26th highest donor of foreign aid on a GNI per capita basis. Among other returns on investment, the Slovak Republic has been able to branch out its developmental efforts in the neighboring Republic of Moldova and assist far from home in municipalities in Iraq. The Slovak Republic has made great leaps in foreign assistance, but there is much more progress that needs to occur, hence the new MOU is an exciting development for further development.

Chester Lankford
Photo: Flickr

Despite only having a population of roughly 2.6 million people, alcohol consumption in Moldova has consistently been among the world’s highest. In 2016, the country was number one, with a per capita consumption of 15.2 liters among people ages 15 and up. Focusing only on the members of the population who drink, the per capita consumption was 22.8 liters. Yet, countries like Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, which consumed 27.9 liters and 24 liters respectively, passed Moldova’s consumption.

WHO reported that Moldova also had the highest percentage of deaths from alcohol-related causes – 26.1% of total deaths. About one in four deaths have a link to alcohol compared to the world average of one in 20. To put the matter in greater perspective, the population of Moldova was roughly 2.8 million in 2016, while the crude death rate was 11.45 deaths per 1,000 people. That means there were about 32,060 deaths, around 8,368 of which occurred due to alcohol-related causes.

About Alcohol Consumption in Moldova

To better understand the heavy alcohol consumption and the high number of alcohol-related deaths in Moldova, it is important to ask how and why drinking became such an issue, even when compared to countries notorious for drinking like Russia, Ukraine and Germany. One of the main contributing factors is Moldova’s wine-drinking culture and the prevalence of homemade wine. In 2016, wine made up 56.6% of the recorded alcohol consumed. Beer accounted for 16.2% and spirits made up 25.2%, according to the WHO report.

A WHO report shows that 60% of the total alcohol that people consumed in Moldova was unrecorded, compared to Russia, which had an unrecorded consumption of 24%, and Ukraine, which showed that 36% of its alcohol consumption was not on record. The majority of the unrecorded alcohol Moldovans consumed was homemade wine. However, if one bases alcohol consumption in Moldova strictly off sales data, an entirely different narrative unfolds.

According to Moldova’s official sales data from 1970 to 2015, wine consumption appears to have peaked at more than 50% of total consumption in the late 1980s. Following the 1980s, wine consumption experienced a rapid decline until 1995. After this, consumption rose slightly before falling to its lowest point in 2005 when wine consumption made up about 10% of the total. From there, it rose to just below 20%, as a study published in the European Journal of Population showed.

Understanding Wine Consumption in Moldova

The sales data makes it appear as though spirits have dominated alcohol consumption since the 1980s, it is on the decline while beer is on the rise. Meanwhile, the data implies wine consumption has accounted for the lowest share of consumption since before 2000. However, further research states that most of Moldova’s alcohol consumption is unrecorded, wine consumption is the main type of unrecorded consumption and that Moldova has a wine-drinking culture. This demonstrates how significant the issue of homemade wine really is.

There are a few significant points about the fact that people are making, buying and consuming so much homemade wine is significant. Firstly, there is the issue of the circumstances when people consume wine instead of beer and spirits. People generally consume beer and spirits for leisure, like when someone is at a party or goes out with friends, usually in the evening or at night. On the other hand, they often consume wine with meals anywhere from the afternoon onward. In addition, people also consume it at celebrations, according to the previously mentioned study.

A wine drinker could easily consume wine every day at dinner and think nothing of it. A social drinker who likes beer or spirits might at most only go out and drink with friends once or twice on weekends. In wine-drinking cultures, wine is practically a necessity with certain meals, so people in countries that have such cultures drink wine ritually. Chronic conditions like cirrhosis of the liver frequently occur due to the regular wine-drinking Moldovans engage in. The same study shows that since homemade wine is unregulated, it is unknown what all could be in it. As a result, it could be more harmful than legally distributed wine.

Anti-Alcohol Measures

Although alcohol consumption in Moldova has been significant, the situation has improved as the government and NGOs make efforts to reduce consumption, alcohol-related diseases and deaths. For decades, Moldova did not take any anti-alcohol measures after experiencing the increased life expectancy benefits of measures the Soviet Union took in 1985. Without measures in place, alcohol consumption rose to more than 23 liters per adult in 1997. By 2004, it was above 21 liters.

Efforts to Reduce Alcohol Consumption and Deaths

In 2012, the government adopted the National Program on Alcohol Control that would be in effect until 2020. A few of the measures within the program were raising the age requirement to buy alcohol, reducing the legal blood-alcohol level for drivers and raising the price floor on certain alcohol products. The first and third measures, however, could simply drive people to consume cheaper, homemade alcohol.

In a low-middle income country, heavy alcohol consumption can slash deep into many Moldovan’s budgets. Homemade wine that is cheaper than milk is alluring to drinkers living in poverty. It is satisfying and worsening their alcohol addictions, which in turn leads to spending more money on alcohol. This is why the charity Mission Without Borders has provided regular food packages to 500 families struggling with alcoholism. However, according to Time, people sometimes exchange these packages for alcohol.

In 2014, Dr. Andrei Usatîi, Moldova’s Minister of Health, initiated a nationwide alcohol awareness campaign to inform Moldovans about the dangers of alcohol abuse. The automobile club “Automobil Club din Moldova” conducted a survey of 9,000 drivers as part of its 2015 anti-drunk driving campaign. Only 15% of Moldovan drivers knew the legal blood alcohol content for drivers. However, 16.75% of respondents claimed they were used to driving after drinking heavily. In 2012, WHO found that 69% of Moldovan drinkers are unconcerned about future alcohol-related health problems. Also, 81% do not plan to start drinking less.

The Future of Alcohol Consumption in Moldova

With alcohol-related causes accounting for 26.1% of deaths in Moldova, a country that at times has consumed more alcohol than anywhere, serious changes must occur. WHO projects that alcohol consumption will only be down to 15.1 liters from 15.2 in 2025. However, government and NGO efforts can bring consumption down further. Informing the people and taking measures against alcohol, particularly homemade wine, is essential for reducing casualties and chronic diseases.

Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

internet access in MoldovaMoldova is among the European countries with the highest poverty rate. However, it has made significant progress in reducing poverty since becoming independent from the Soviet Union, with the national poverty rate decreasing “from 28% in 2010 to 13% by 2018.” Furthermore, over the past two decades, Moldova’s GDP has risen by an annual rate of roughly 4.6%, largely due to consumption and the significance of remittances. Although COVID-19 has stalled progress in poverty reduction, potentially even reversing progress, there is hope for Moldova to get back on track to economic growth and advancement. Widespread internet access in Moldova may help the country strengthen and recover.

Small Country, Vast Internet

Despite the tiny country’s high poverty rate, internet access in Moldova ranks among the best in the world. Roughly 90% of Moldova’s population enjoys “superfast gigabit internet access.” While “the United States is twice as urbanized as Moldova, its gigabit coverage” reaches only 18% of the population. Only South Korea and Singapore, both much wealthier and more urbanized than Moldova, boast better coverage. The rest of the top 10 countries for gigabit coverage rank among the world’s 40 wealthiest nations globally. Meanwhile, Moldova ranks as only the 98th wealthiest nation in the world.

Since the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991, the international community has provided Moldova with grants and loans aimed at spurring economic growth and reducing poverty. The privatization of telecoms was a prerequisite in a developmental assistance offer from the World Bank in the late 2000s. To fulfill the condition, “a fiber optic cable was laid across” the Dniester River in 2009. Thanks to the new infrastructure, internet access became widespread as 99% of Moldovan communities were able to connect to the fiber optic network. Fiber optic cable also connects Moldova directly to Frankfurt in Germany, a major European digital hub.

Emigration and the Benefits of Connectivity

Moldova has high emigration rates —  as much as a quarter of the population live and work in Russia and other European countries, often illegally. As a consequence, Moldova is highly dependant on remittances. Many Moldovans working abroad purchase computers and send them to their families in Moldova for communication purposes. These communication methods require internet access, boosting the demand for internet access in Moldova even further.

Thanks to Moldova’s excellent internet speeds and connectivity, many countries have begun outsourcing IT and call center jobs to Moldova. Italy, in particular, outsources many jobs to Moldova because many Moldovans speak Italian as a second language. These outsourced jobs serve to ignite economic growth in Moldova, providing citizens with employment opportunities and a way out of poverty.

Internet Access and Poverty Reduction

The internet is recognized as a tool that contributes to the social and economic development of a country. Internet access aids in the “delivery of essential services such as education and healthcare.” Through the internet, people have access to remote job opportunities that were once out of reach. Furthermore, the internet not only expands people’s access to job opportunities but also creates a demand for jobs in the technology and engineering sectors.

According to the World Bank, increasing “internet penetration to 75% of the population in all developing countries” would contribute up to $2 trillion to their combined GDPs. Furthermore, this rate of penetration would generate “more than 140 million jobs” globally.

Widespread internet access in Moldova may help the country to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the added assistance of international powers already investing in the country, Moldova can pick up where it left off and continue its trend of poverty reduction.

Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr