Alleviate Poverty in North Macedonia
When Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1991, Macedonia became an autonomous nation. However, standards of living have significantly decreased since the country’s independence. Unemployment rates are consistently high, which has directly affected children across the nation. Approximately 6% of children work and 12% marry before turning 18. The child poverty rate is 27.1%, with those from a Roma background at a much higher disadvantage. Fortunately, international organizations and the government are working to eliminate child poverty in the nation. Here are four efforts to alleviate child poverty in North Macedonia.

4 Efforts to Alleviate Child Poverty in North Macedonia

  1. UNICEF Solutions: Child poverty in Macedonia is a pervasive issue: an excess of 100,000 children are still in states of deprivation. Poverty affects children on every level, which includes faltering health, child marriage, abuse and lack of educational success. For instance, 1 out of 10 children in Pelagonija is affected by poverty when compared to 1 out of 2 in the Northeast. Moving forward, UNICEF has outlined solutions to aid the effort to end child poverty. These include offering accessible health care at no cost and supplying quality education to all children.
  2. Prioritizing Children: More than 100,000 children across Macedonia, 28% of the country’s youth, are affected by poverty. In 2018, leaders from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, UNICEF and the World Bank, as well as child poverty experts convened to formulate solutions that would eliminate child poverty. They agreed that social reform must prioritize the children to fight against poverty. All families with minimal income received an education and child allowance, helping to provide children affected by poverty with the opportunity at an equal start.
  3. Inclusive Education: One out of 300 children living in poverty goes to preschool, while only two-thirds attend secondary education. North Macedonia’s education system is unsustainable due to a variety of factors. Low budgets, lack of ethnic integration among youth and limiting children who have disabilities are a few of the reasons education has fallen behind. In 2002, USAID implemented inclusive learning programs across all levels of education, which has helped children with disabilities and supported diverse ethnic integration.
  4. The Romani Children: The Romani population in Macedonia is estimated to be around 260,000 as of 2020. Moreover, 73% of Romani children who attend school never complete their education. Roughly 3 to 4 children per household are of age to go to school, yet the costs of sustaining schooling for this many children have become a financial burden. To help curb these rates, the Roma Education Fund, founded in 2005, has been focusing on education reform for the Roma communities across Macedonia. It offers young Roma people living in Macedonia scholarships to assist with primary and secondary education.

These four efforts show the nation’s determination to support children in need, and, more broadly, to shift Macedonia from an impoverished nation to one of prosperity and equality. The success of these reforms will depend on governmental spending, as well as programs supported by nonprofits and international organizations. Moving forward, alleviating child poverty in Macedonia must continue to be a priority.

Michael Santiago
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sanitation in Bulgaria
Situated on the west coast of the Black Sea, Bulgaria has continually struggled to secure basic services for its people. An improvement came when Bulgaria entered the European Union in 2007. Amid this positive step, however, it became clear that Bulgaria’s wastewater treatment and sanitation system was below E.U. standards. The latest situational analysis on equal access to water sanitation in Bulgaria shows that there are 10 significant areas for improvement. Bulgaria must address these issues in order to ensure pure water and high-quality sanitation to the entire country. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Bulgaria.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bulgaria

  1. The water and sanitation network in Bulgaria is decades old. Iskar is the largest reservoir in Bulgaria. Located near the country’s capital, Sofia, it collects about 675 million cubic meters of water. Built in 1954, it is one of the oldest reservoirs. Bulgaria built most of its water network between the 50s and the late 80s. In 1990, however, the political regime changed from communism to democracy and the new government abandoned all infrastructure projects. As a result, one-third of Bulgarians suddenly lacked a reliable water supply and sewage network.
  2. Bulgaria does not recycle its wastewater. Even though two-thirds of the Bulgarian population has access to a wastewater network, only 57 percent possess access to a wastewater treatment plant. This means that large amounts of household water do not receive treatment and households reuse it. In other words, Bulgaria does not engage in the recycling of wastewater. This is not the case in other European countries such as Germany, Belgium and Spain, where recycled water goes towards agriculture, groundwater recharge and ecological enhancement.
  3. Bulgaria’s water supply pipes contain asbestos-cement. The World Bank reports that Bulgaria’s existing water network is extremely outdated. On average, water supply pipes in Bulgaria are 36 years old and most comprise of asbestos-cement. The majority of developed countries have discontinued the use of asbestos in building materials, due to its cancer-causing properties. Several developing countries, however, continue to use asbestos-containing materials. Moreover, Bulgaria’s non-revenue water rate—water that is produced and then lost or unaccounted for before it reaches the desired target— is close to 60 percent, resulting in an even more unstable water supply network.
  4. People suffer from water rationing. As a result of outdated water networks, lack of strategic wastewater collection and expenditure in treatment systems, a significant number of people suffer from seasonal water rationing and lack of sanitation. The people in the North-East regions of Bulgaria suffer the most. They experience frequent water rationing throughout the year and high prices of water supply and sanitation. Additionally, 37 percent of the population does not have access to wastewater treatment. Furthermore, 24 percent of the population lives in areas with no wastewater collection systems at all. These staggering statistics require significant funding to ensure that water quality and sanitation services comply with the requirements of the E.U. directives.
  5. Most Bulgarians in rural areas do not have access to sanitation. According to the National Statistical Institute, 25 percent of Bulgarians, the majority of whom live in rural areas, do not have access to sanitation. These areas spread to 81 percent of the country’s territory and 39 percent (as of 2014) of the population, meaning that most of these regions also lack adequate sewage disposal. The Special Accession Program for Agricultural and Rural Development (SAPARD), the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) and the Operational program for rural development funded centralized sewerage systems in a number of rural areas. While considered a positive step, the funding ultimately only benefited villages with municipal centers.
  6. Roma communities suffer the most from the lack of proper sanitation. Bulgaria’s compliance with the E.U. standards proved a difficult task in 2007 and, unfortunately, this challenge still continues today. The overall lack of balance between living conditions in rural and urban areas, as well as a lack of public policies regarding living conditions, enhance the challenge. For example, Bulgaria does not possess a national policy for addressing illegal neighborhoods (ghettos). These mostly Roma-populated neighborhoods do not possess access to centralized sewerage systems, water treatment plants 0r wastewater tanks. The National Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria on Roma Inclusion (2012-2020), a document that Bulgaria implemented from 2012 to 2020, seeks to improve the quality of life of vulnerable groups and promote their full inclusion in society. While the document grants Roma families access to public social housing, the measure falls short of solving the problem in its entirety. It ultimately leaves more than 400,000 people in Roma ghettos.
  7. Masterplans for water and sanitation services are corrupt. A situational analysis on equal access to water and sanitation in Bulgaria states that: “Financial mechanisms have been subject to significant trade in influence and corruption, so the investments have achieved very low efficiency.” Experts from the Earth Forever Foundation made a comparative analysis of the validity of the data used in the masterplans for sustainable water and sanitation services in three villages in Central Bulgaria. The analysis revealed that the regional plans provide inadequate wastewater removal. Furthermore, the regional plans utilize treatment measures that not only fail to comply with legislation but also stubbornly remain unaffordable for the general population.
  8. Bulgaria and the World Bank are collaborating to solve water supply and sanitation problems. To tackle these problem areas, the government voted on a new ambitious plan regarding the water supply and sanitation issues. In 2016, the Bulgarian government and the World Bank worked together on the Country Partnership Framework for Bulgaria. The document focuses on the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of essential public service delivery, including improved water supply and sanitation.
  9. Approximately 99 percent of Bulgarians have access to a clean water supply. Thanks to the collaborative efforts, Bulgaria now shows significant improvements. According to the latest report from the Ministry of Regional Development, centralized water supply now spans 99 percent of Bulgaria. At present, a centralized water supply covers 5,000 towns and villages. Currently, only two areas do not receive full coverage from the central water supply. In response to those two areas, the government has created a strategy to cover the needs of the outstanding 1 percent. A new law, part of the next strategic plan (2024-2033), seeks to further improve the country’s sanitation network.
  10. Bulgarian schools teach clean water supply and sanitation. To educate the new generations, Regulation No. 13 of 21.09.2016 on Civil, Health, Environmental and Intercultural Education included new topics in Bulgarian public school curriculum. Subjects added include healthy lifestyles, water usage and conservation, waste/water waste management and composting. Designed to help students recognize the importance of nature conservation, these subjects focus on water pollution reduction, clean water preservation and recycling.

Over the last 13 years, Bulgaria has exhibited slow, yet promising progress towards achieving the U.N. goals for universal access to water and sanitation. The country continues to strive to comply with the E.U. standards for clean water supplies and wastewater treatment. The new challenge for Bulgaria is to establish baseline measures for the fairness of access to water and sanitation through the Equitable Access Score-Card, a process of self-assessment. This self-assessment focuses on “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all” and “access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations” by 2030.

Olga Uzunova
Photo: Flickr

facts about girls' education in RomaniaRomania is a country settled in east-central Europe bordering the Black Sea. The country has a rigid education program that falls short in some areas of girls’ education, particularly for Roma girls who come from a minority making up about 10 percent of Romania’s population. While improvements are being made to the overall education of the country, some pupils are more neglected than others. These six facts about girls’ education in Romania shed some light on the achievements and shortfalls of the Romanian education system and what is being done to further improve girls’ education.

6 Facts About Girls’ Education in Romania

  1. There are more girls in pre-primary schools than boys. As of 2016, 75.26 percent of Romanian girls were enrolled in pre-primary school—the equivalent of kindergarten—while only 74.52 percent of boys were enrolled.
  2. Female literacy rates are on the rise. In 1992, 94.98 percent of the Romanian female population older than 15 were literate. As of 2018, that percentage stood at 98.6.
  3. Half of the women in rural Romania don’t finish secondary school. Half of the female population living in rural areas of Romania don’t manage to finish secondary school according to Tatiana Proscuryakova, World Bank’s Country Manager for Romania and Hungary.
  4. Roma women often don’t have the same opportunities as other women in Romania. One of the largest minority groups in Romania is the Roma people. Roma girls are disproportionately impacted by poverty conditions and continue to face societal discrimination. On average, Roma girls leave school at age 10 so that they can contribute to the household in some way.
  5. Female unemployment rates are increasing. As of 2019, only 45.17 percent of Romanian women are part of the workforce. This number dropped from 62.31 percent in 1992 and is likely a direct result of the struggle among many women to complete a proper education. Without an education, many women find themselves without the skills necessary to make themselves a valuable member of the workforce.
  6. Save the Children is working to fix the gap in Roma girls’ education. The American nonprofit, known for its work in helping children around the world, launched a preparedness program in the summer of 2016 for children in Romania. The goal of this program is to help Roma children be better equipped for pre-primary school, both academically and socially.

Romania has an impressive literacy rate among both men and women but has seen a dramatic drop in the number of women in the workforce. Most Romanian women are able to receive an education, but Roma girls seem to be subject to a prejudiced struggle. While the number of girls in the workforce is declining, education is increasing and the hope of overall improvement of girls’ education and the consequent life opportunities is bright.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty Among the Roma Population

Out of the many ethnic minorities that live in Eastern Europe, the Roma population often faces discrimination. While progress has been made to limit this discrimination and better integrate the people, there has still been little success. Here are eight facts about poverty among the Roma population in Romania and what is being done to solve the problem.

8 Facts About Poverty Among the Roma Population in Romania

  1. Romania‘s Roma population consists of 2.5 million people out of a total population of 19 million. The Roma are the biggest ethnic minority in Romania and at least 90 percent live on or below the poverty line.
  2. Roma people often have trouble finding housing. The housing problem stems from cities like Bucharest not having enough housing for low income families. With the fall of the Soviet Union, many of the social housing programs that provided housing for the Roma went down with the communist regime, leaving many Roma homeless, especially in Bucharest. Many other Roma families that have lived in large cities have also found themselves being evicted due to unsanitary or unsafe conditions.
  3. Only one in five Roma children attend school. Poor financial situations and a lack of support leave Roma children malnourished, wearing dirty clothing and lacking school supplies, making them unfit to go to school, which contributes to the discrimination.
  4. Most Roma families live in homes without any drinking water or heating. In addition, half of Roma families live off of 3.3 euros per day. However, the Romanian government is taking steps to amend this issue by pushing forward a 100 million euro plan to better integrate the Roma community within the rest of the population and thus reduce poverty as a whole by 2020.
  5. The European Commission is making it their goal to better integrate the Roma community with the rest of the population by continuing a long term project that started in 2010. The program targets all Romanians in Europe works to solve issues with housing segregation, education levels, health improvement and general discrimination.
  6. The E.U. reportedly allocated 10 billion euros on regional development to be spent between 2014 and 2020 with a portion dedicated to assist the the Roma community. Despite this, the situation for the Roma community has yet to have any sufficient changes partially due to insufficient checks by the E.U. on how the Romanian government is using this money.
  7. Of the 10,000 or more street children that live in the Romanian capital Bucharest, about 80 percent of these children are Roma, which further contributes to discrimination. A lot of this is due to the overhaul of the social work and family advocacy systems with the fall of the Soviet Union and communist regime led to a poor or lacking systems that help homeless children and broken families in need of aid.
  8. There are programs at work that seem to be more efficient in leveling the playing field for the Roma community on a level playing field. The Fundația Secretariatul Romilor (FSR), after forming in 2009, has taken steps to help Romania’s Roma community by pushing an awareness campaign to bring outsider attention to the Roma situation, as well as improving the community’s public image through social inclusion programs. Despite doing their best to make headway, the government of Romania has shown resistance to some of their solutions, even with the FSR going as far as to work with NGOs.

These eight facts about poverty among the Roma population in Romania show how poverty seriously affects not just Roma in Romania, but in all of Eastern Europe. While it’s clear that outside influencers are seeking to improve the Roma situation, the main government within Romania seems resistant in solving the problem. With awareness, time and successful government programs, Romania can really help the Roma community.

– Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Romani People in BulgariaIn the 1400s, Romani people migrated from Northern India to Eastern Europe. Upon first arriving, Eastern European natives supposed they came from Egypt, thus calling them “Gypsies.” While the term “Gypsy” refers to a single ethnic minority, the Romani people came from numerous tribes. They lived as nomads and traditionally worked as craftsmen.

During this time, Eastern Europeans commonly used “Gypsy” as a derogatory term. They discriminated against Romani people, treating them as less than. Due to this history, the term “Gypsy” is avoided today for its negative connotation.

Romani People in Bulgaria

However, in some Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, citizens still discriminate against the Romani people. This discrimination results in poverty among Romani people in Bulgaria. As a result, they are isolated into ghetto-like neighborhoods that are covered in trash and lack clean drinking water. Additionally, the infrastructures and sewage systems of these neighborhoods are in need of repair. In Bulgaria, 40 percent of Romani people live below the poverty line.

The schools in the Romani neighborhoods of Bulgaria are of low quality, both in the quality of curriculum and resources. Because of this, many Romani parents view school as pointless and instead keep their children home. Other parents keep their children home to work for extra income. Some parents need older children to watch their younger siblings during the day. If possible, some Romani parents send their children overseas to school, in hopes they can achieve a better future.

This lack of high-quality education among Romani people in Bulgaria has led to:

  • 22 percent of Romani people in Bulgaria being illiterate.
  • 91 percent not receiving a secondary education.
  • a direct link between the lack of schooling and teen pregnancy, resulting in 6,000 babies being born to underage Romani mothers in 2016.
  • many being unable to speak Bulgarian.

Forming the Set Free Foundation

After acknowledging discrimination against Romani people in Bulgaria not only causes poverty but also makes it nearly impossible to escape, the Set Free Foundation was created. Established in 2000, this nonprofit works to fight for Romani rights in Bulgaria. Their vision is to create a system integrating Romani people into Bulgarian society. In doing so, Romani people would become functioning members of Bulgarian society and receive the same rights and opportunities as Bulgarians.

In order to accomplish this successfully, the Set Free Foundation has created the Renascence Programme which consists of the following components:

  • a 14- to 30-day program that transitions Romani people who have migrated to other parts of Europe back to Bulgaria,
  • a space for Romani people to rest and reflect,
  • assistance for Romani people seeking permanent housing and a job,
  • teaching Romani people how to budget finances, and
  • training for Romani women to ensure they have the necessary skills to enter the job market.

The Set Free Foundation Helps Romani People in Bulgaria

Beyond implementing the Renascence Programme, the Set Free Foundation has accomplished numerous projects to help end poverty among Romani people in Bulgaria. For example, they have built a house in Bulgaria called the Liberty House. This house temporarily houses Romani families in financial crises in need of housing. It consists of three working toilets, three showers and three water basins. The Liberty House can shelter four to six families at a time. And the Set Free Foundation hopes this house is the first of many.

The Set Free Foundation has also partnered with Valley Church to build a garden outside the Liberty House. The garden provides guests with fresh produce during their stay. In addition, Valley Church has donated numerous suitcases full of feminine hygiene products to the Set Free Foundation for Romani women.

The Set Free Foundation encourages supporters to spread the word about poverty among Romani people in Bulgaria. It also welcomes donations to help continue their work. Donations help Romani people gain access to better education and enter the workforce, ultimately resulting in their ability to leave poverty and lead more fulfilling lives.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 facts Ukraine

Ukraine is a beautiful country nestled between Russia to the east and the European Union to the west. This precarious location has led to conflict and hardship for the people of Ukraine, but there are programs in place now to improve the lives of the citizens living in these conflicted regions. In order to evaluate the best course of action to better the lives of the Ukrainian people, it is important to understand these top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Ukraine

  1. In 2014, the Euromaidan movement erupted in eastern Ukraine when President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign an agreement with the European Union, thus bringing Ukraine a step further away from joining the EU. Yanukovych was removed from the presidency in 2014, followed by political unrest, the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014 and the outbreak of fighting between Ukrainian nationalists and Russian forces in the Donbass region of Ukraine. This conflict has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths.

  2. The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in 1.5 million internally displaced persons, according to the Ukrainian government. Despite this enormous challenge, the UNHCR is working to provide aid, including blankets, cooking supplies, clothing and other supplies to help these people survive the harsh winter. Understanding the top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine can help shed light on what more needs to be done to aid these displaced people.

  3. In the immediate aftermath of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, hunger and food shortages became pressing issues. The United Nations Food Programme responded by increasing its presence in Ukraine to provide food to the 190,000 people deemed vulnerable due to conflict or the inability to leave the conflict zone. The World Food Progamme has also provided food supplies to the region in case further violence and displacement ensue.

  4. The Roma minority in Ukraine are continuing to face discrimination without much aid from the government. This discrimination has culminated in violent attacks against Roma communities. For example, in April 2018, a nationalist group called C14 attacked a Roma community by throwing rocks, spraying pepper spray and tearing down tents. None of the members of C14 were arrested despite the fact that the group filmed their attack and posted it to the internet. Instead of punishing the group, the government awarded them with grants to hold “patriotic education” meetings in rent-free auditoriums. Further attacks continued, resulting in the murder of a Roma man and the robbing of 150 Roma families in Slovyansk.

  5. Anti-Semitism has become a devastating problem that is quite prevalent in Ukraine since the conflict with Russia began. After a Passover service in a synagogue in Donetsk, masked members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian group that “claims to represent ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine,” handed out leaflets to the members of the synagogue that read that all Jewish Ukrainians should register with the government, leave the country or pay a fine. When confronted about the issue, the Donetsk People’s Republic denied they were involved and in turn claimed the Ukrainian government was guilty of anti-Semitism.

  6. Unemployment in Ukraine decreased from 8.30 percent in the second quarter of 2018 to 8 percent by the third quarter; although, the rate did increase again up to 9.3 percent. Although the Ukrainian economy grew by 3 percent last year, which is positive, it should be growing at a rate closer to 5 or 6 percent annually. In fact, the Ukrainian finance minister stated that, at this current rate, it would take Ukraine up to 50 years to reach the economic growth of its neighbor, Poland.

  7. Gender equality has a ways to go in Ukraine in the political, economic and social spheres. The Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum ranks Ukraine at 64 in terms of women’s income, 22 in terms of women’s education and 119 in terms of political representation. Women make up 55 percent of the unemployed population in Ukraine. Women make up only 9.4 percent of the Ukrainian parliament. However, the Ukrainian government does recognize this issue and is taking steps to promote gender equality. There is a new state program to reduce the wage gap through efforts to increase the hiring of women in better-paying positions and “combating gender stereotypes about female and male professionals.” Equal pay will also be a focus in order to reduce the wage gap.

  8. One major issue around in Ukraine is child marriage. According to UNICEF, 9 percent of Ukrainian girls are married before the age of 18. The issue is more prevalent in poorer, rural areas of the country where 15 percent of women in poorer households were married before the age of 18 compared to 10 percent in the wealthier families in Ukraine. According to the organization Girls Not Brides, “Patriarchal attitudes still maintain that a Ukrainian woman’s main role is to be a wife and mother. Some young girls and families support early marriage as it leads to the ‘right path’ in life.” However, the government has recognized this issue and has signed several U.N. resolutions to eliminate child marriage.

  9. Education attendance rates are high in Ukraine, although there are several institutional issues. According to the World Bank, there is very little gender disparity in primary school attendance. In 2014, 92 percent of boys and 93 percent of girls attended primary school. However, the World Bank also reported that “unofficial payments are common in education. […] schools collect money from parents for classroom remodeling and flowers or gifts for teachers.” The Ukrainian government has taken steps to designate 7 percent of its annual GDP to improving education throughout the country.

  10. Despite the devastation the conflict in Ukraine has caused for citizens, there are NGOs in the region attempting to provide aid to those affected by the violence. Hope for Ukraine is an organization that delivers aid packages to the frontline in the Donbass region. It has volunteers visit wounded soldiers in hospitals and holds after-school English lessons for Ukrainian school children through its Children’s Rescue Center.

The issues in Ukraine will not be easily solved, but hopefully, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine highlight the successes that several organizations have brought about and what still needs to be done to improve the lives of Ukrainian citizens.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Romania
Among the European Union (EU) nations, Romania has been considered as one of the most severely underdeveloped for a long time. Some of the worst housing conditions on the continent can be found here, along with a great risk of poverty. However, there are reports of an improving economic climate and rapidly rising incomes indicative of consistent progress. Potential challenges for the country are citizens leaving in more prosperous countries, resulting in negative population growth and threats to the nation’s economic progress. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Romania show a country grappling to maintain both its post-communist prosperity and its people.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Romania

  1. Compared to 23.5 percent of Europeans, about 25 percent of Romanians were considered to be at risk of poverty in 2016, including over half of all people living in rural areas. This rate is higher for adults supporting children at 42.5 percent, particularly single parents at 58.2 percent. An estimated 22 percent of the population already live below the poverty line.
  2. Factors including overcrowding, environmental disturbances like pollution, noise or violence and difficulties keeping homes heated have been measured in Romania by the European Commission. Sixty percent of Romanians live in detached houses with one room per person, with 96 percent of those owning their own home. However, in 2016, 13.8 percent of Romanians reported being unable to heat these homes and 20 percent of the population lives without an improved source of sanitation.
  3. Economic growth of 4 percent was recorded in 2018, down from 7 percent increase the year before, mostly due to slowing foreign investment. Consumption among the Romanian people has helped the economy, rising rapidly due to decreased taxes, alongside exports and trade with EU member states that opened up after Romania joined the EU in 2007. Corruption and slow restructuring following liberation from communism in 1989 have withheld real economic stability.
  4. Average household income in 2016 was about $3,300, a massive increase from about $700 in 2001. Household spending has also increased, from $1,900 in 2006 to $2,800 per capita within 10 years. These increases have likely resulted from Romania’s economic growth, successful exports to the EU and the complete removal of income tax on low-income pensioners, allowing for greater disposable income for older people in particular, who make up most of Romania’s population.
  5. The unemployment rate has declined to 3.7 percent in 2018 from 7.2 percent in 2010. However, the youth unemployment rate is dramatically higher, at 16.8 percent, likely contributing to massive youth migration that search work and better living opportunities. It should be noted, however, that employment does not prevent individuals from becoming at risk of poverty. Over 20 percent of Romanian men and 15 percent of women considered at risk in 2016 were employed.
  6. Romanians experience the fourth highest rate of severe material deprivation in Europe. In 2016, 23.8 percent of Romanians could not afford at least four out of nine necessary material items set by the EU, compared to 7.5 percent of Europeans. Necessary materials include a complete meal every two days, paying for unexpected expenses, an annual vacation, adequate heating, a car, washing machine, color television, telephone and paying for routine bills.
  7. Groups like the estimated 2.4 million Roma people in the country suffer a higher rate of poverty than the ethnic majority. They have been historically persecuted and enslaved and continue to suffer prejudice. Around 42 percent of Roma cannot afford health care and suffer from increased exposure to diseases of poverty. Employment for Roma is estimated at only 42 percent for males and 19 percent for females, compared to over 60 percent employment among the general Romanian population. Many Roma people are subject to human rights abuses, including forced eviction, with little social welfare assistance to fall back on.
  8. Only 7.2 percent of Romanians reported having bad or very bad health in 2016 compared to 8.8 percent of other EU citizens. UNAIDS estimated in 2017 that 16,000 Romanians were living with HIV/AIDS, many as a result of poor hygiene practices that led to an AIDS epidemic in the 1990s. The overall population has a life expectancy at birth of about 75 years, just below the European average of 79 years.
  9. Emigration to neighboring countries and more prosperous European nations like the U.K., Italy and Germany has been significant since the 1990s. An estimated 3.9 million Romanians live outside their native country, leading to a consistently declining population. The Romanian economy is currently suffering from a shortage of skilled laborers and dwindling supply of young workers, prompting initiatives by the Romanian government to draw its citizens back into the country with incentives for reintegration.
  10. Many nonprofit organizations have worked in Romania since the fall of communism in 1989 to help the nation restructure and better serve its people. Habitat for Humanity has worked in Romania since the 1990s, serving 58,000 families and helping to replace crumbling communist-era apartment blocks, install plumbing and access to water. UNICEF works with the Romanian government and other organizations to create support networks for Romanians living with AIDS and to fund HIV/AIDS research. Several World Bank projects are also underway, including reimbursable projects to restructure Romania’s social welfare systems and provide higher quality education and health care.

Romania is currently one of the most underdeveloped nations of the European Union. Due to this reason, many young people are leaving the country, in search of work and better living conditions. However, various nongovernmental organization and government are working to improve the living conditions for the young people and other citizens of the country.

– Marissa Field

Photo: Flickr

Roma

Who are the Roma? While believed to have originated from Egypt (hence the slang term ‘gypsy’), the Roma people can actually trace their origins back to northern India. From around 700AD onward, they migrated across Europe, working as entertainers, artisans and farmworkers. For a long time, they managed to get by in this fashion without issue.

Moving Through Europe

As time went on, cracks began to appear in their initial acceptance. It seemed that everywhere the Romani people went, the ruling class wanted to tie them down or expel them. If they went to places such as Wallachia and Moldova, for example, they would find themselves enslaved. Moving to western European countries like Spain meant death or forced assimilation.

After the last emancipation of the enslaved Romani people in 1864, it seemed as though the Roma group had begun to make some progress. In the years after the first World War, the Roma began to make moves towards social and political lobbying. The first Romani organization, The General Association of Romanian Roma, appeared and The World Roma Congress had its first meeting in 1933.

Then, the Nazi regime began to target the Romani people along with the Jews. During World War II they faced the stripping of their nationality, deportation to labor camps and even mass executions. It is estimated by historians that at least 220,000 Roma were killed in Europe during World War II, but the exact numbers are unknown.

Who Are the Roma?

Now, ask the question today: who are the Roma? One would assume that, in a modern-day society that focuses on social inclusion, the Romani people would fare better today. Yet, even in the present day, the Roma remain the group the most discriminated against in Europe.

The Romani people today find themselves the victims of hate crimes such as having their homes burned or physical assault. In many of these cases, the local police fail to provide them with the protection or justice that they need. The police are also known to discriminate against the Roma and treat them with less dignity than non-Roma.

They also struggle in everyday society due to the disadvantages of prejudice. Despite regulations, situations such as segregated schooling for Romani children and lower wages for Romani workers still exist in Europe. Some Romani people even have trouble purchasing land on which they could build homes. This means that even those who want to work for a better life might have trouble achieving it.

Thus, the Romani people could remain trapped in their current disadvantaged situation. Consider the fact that 70 percent of the Roma population throughout the world lives in poverty. Many of them live in slums without electricity or running water.

Where Can the Roma Turn to in Search of Hope?

Government intervention seems the only possible way to provide the Roma with the assistance that they need to rise out of their current situation. And indeed, the governments of multiple countries have created programs of varying success, such as the Phare programs of the early 2000’s.

Yet, a 2013 Brigham Young University Paper indicates what might prevent the success of Roma assistance. The paper stated that at least in Romania, the local governments focus upon the integration of the Roma into society. They do not focus on integrating Romani people in a way that will not kill their culture.

Indeed, many Romani people still live traditional, nomadic lives and are unwilling to leave them even if it means living in poverty. This culture, however, clashes with the current sedentary European culture. Unless these two cultures can find a compromise in the future, some Roma might still live on the fringes of society.

There are groups like The Minority Rights Group International and Amnesty International that are working to educate people about the Romani people by working with the Roma communities and governments. The U.N. has been working with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to address providing business opportunities and social services to the Romani people in the country through enacting a two-year “Action Plan for the National Roma Strategy.” They hope to find solutions to many of the problems the Romani face every day.

Ask the question again: who are the Roma? They are a people who have faced countless tragedies in the past and now face an uncertain future. Yet, when given the assistance and understanding that they need, they may be able to find their own place in society where they can thrive.

– Elizabeth Frerking

Photo: Flickr


The Roma people are Europe’s largest ethnic minority, comprising six million European Union citizens. But many of the Roma in the EU are victims of persistent prejudice and discrimination and face daily poverty and social exclusion.

In 2011, the EU Heads of State and Government adopted the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020 to close the gap between Roma and non-Roma in access to education, employment, healthcare and housing. All Member States were charged with tailoring their strategies to meet the needs of the Roma population in their country.

A recent report reveals both progress made and areas for improvement.

In education, the EU Commission called on Member States to ensure, at a minimum, primary school completion, widened access to quality early childhood education and care, efforts to keep Roma children from being subject to discrimination or segregation and a reduction in the number of early school leavers.

The report reveals a positive general trend in the area of access to quality early childhood education and care. “In Finland for example, within ten years, the participation of Roma children in pre-primary school increased from 2% to 60%. The same applies to Hungary, where the enrollment rate of Roma children in preschool is high (79%) and is likely to further improve,” the report states.

Other issues, such as early school leavers, require additional efforts to address problems such as a lack of proper paperwork for children whose families move around a lot. “The Commission’s assessment confirms that sustained efforts can bring about a significant impact on the situation of Roma in education,” the report states. “For example, in three years (2010-2013), a Bulgarian educational project has brought down the number of children who dropped out of school by almost 80%.”

Less encouraging have been EU efforts to improve employment among the Roma population. “In some cases, the employment situation of Roma has even further deteriorated, although this is partly due to the general increase of unemployment in several EU Member States over the past few years,” the report states. “Within this context, Roma, and to an even larger extent Roma women, have been particularly affected as they often lack marketable skills and qualifications.”

Discrimination often plays a role in making it more difficult for the Roma people to attain employment. Successful programs were noted however, in Bulgaria, France, and Hungary, where countries worked with other organizations to set up community development centers, language classes, and labor market counseling among other services.

Providing better access to healthcare and housing to the Roma people has also proven difficult due to barriers such as distance to health services, lack of financial resources, lack of communication between Roma and non-Roma constituents, and the need for more integrated housing.

Most Member States have begun initiatives to raise awareness about Roma culture and history; in particular, in recent years, a growing number have organized activities to commemorate the Roma Holocaust, the report states. The report however encourages Member States to develop more effective measures to combat anti-Roma rhetoric and hate speech.

Last year Irish journalist, Barbara McCarthy, explored what it would be like to spend the day begging for money on the streets of Dublin dressed as a Roma person. “I kept my eyes to the ground out of fear of people,” she reported. “I felt really sorry for the person I was pretending to be.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: European Commission , Independent.ie, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC,
Photo: Pers Blog

UN Reinventing the Approach to European Roma Poverty-TBP
The Roma people are a large ethnic minority living in Europe whose population totals to 10 to 12 million people. Despite the existence of laws aimed at protecting this group of people from discrimination, the Romas experience harsh prejudices. The lack of opportunities to available to them often keeps them below the poverty line. They have low literacy rates, little access to healthcare centers and high rates of hunger.

The countries with the highest percentage of Roma communities are Macedonia, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Hungary and Bulgaria. They make up between 7 and 10 percent of the populations of these countries.

Roma people suffer from many health issues, but their access to health insurance is limited. Their cause is further hurt by the high price of healthcare. More than half of Roma households cannot afford prescriptions and about 20 percent say that they have had overnight stays in health centers. (Non-Roma people ranked at 1/3 and about 12 percent, respectively.) Vaccination rates are also low among the Roma, while births outside the hospital are high.

Education is another area where there is a significant lack of support and progress. Because of child marriages, many young girls are taken out of school before they are able to finish. In most of Central and Eastern Europe, about 50 percent of the Roma have, at the very least, a lower secondary education than their non-Roma counterparts. Schools are often ethnically segregated.

The United Nations had a mission to help lower Roma poverty and improve their living conditions. In 2007, the UN opened centers to help the Roma people receive affordable and accessible healthcare and proper education. However, the programs were highly inefficient and slow moving and accomplished little. That is why the UN is out to reinvent the Roma outreach.

After experimenting with three prospective methods in Macedonia to engage the Roma people and to improve their situation, the UN settled on the Roma Centre of the Future.

Using Roma and non-Roma peoples, the centers work to help the Roma people access education, healthcare and other public services. This time, the centers have the skills, knowledge, tools and technology needed to run such an idea efficiently and effectively, with the goal being to reach as many Roma people as possible. The workers help people through complicated paperwork, direct them to opportunities like job trainings and provide useful community programs. There is also a special focus on the elderly, a concentration that did not exist in the earlier programs.

The program is already seeing success. Within the first five months the center reached 820 people, which was more than the old centers used to help in a year! This new, dedicated focus on reaching the needs of the people appears to be working, as the Roma people are seeing the positive effects the centers have on the community and are thus going to these centers for help.

Katherine Hewitt

Sources: EC Europa, UNDP 1, UNDP 2, New Int
Photo: UNDP