Technology Access
All over the world, libraries provide the public with free resources in order to inform, educate, enlighten, empower and equip communities with the tools to succeed. Being such an integral part of communities, it is important that everyone has access to libraries or public spaces for educational purposes. Currently, most “economic, educational, health and social opportunities” are dependent on access to the internet. The Gates Foundation’s Global Library Initiative is working to expand technology access in public libraries around the globe.

The Global Library Initiative’s Strategy

The Global Library Initiative, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sponsored, works in partnership with governments around the world to expand technology access, foster innovation, train community leaders and advocate for policy changes that benefit public libraries. By investing more than $1 billion globally to enhance the power of libraries, the Global Library Initiative is improving lives. Over the next 10 years, the Gates Foundation plans on implementing:

  • New models of public library research, training and practice.
  • More collaboration across organizations that support public libraries.
  • More support for global connections between public libraries and library organizations.
  • Sustain existing global library programs.

The Significance

“Access to information is a great equalizer” reported the Gates Foundation in response to the significance of The Global Library Initiative. After the technology boom, economic, educational, health and social opportunities almost always depend on an individual’s access to resources found online. A lack of internet access can usually translate to a lack of opportunity.

The World Economic Forum reported that the pandemic exposed the true digital divide across the globe. It reported that almost half of the world’s population had no access to the internet and fewer than one in five people in countries that are least developed around the world were connected. Furthermore, women are 30-50% less likely than men to use the internet to participate in public life.

Because so many people are unable to access the internet that would otherwise provide them with useful knowledge, funding and supporting libraries across the globe provides a smart solution. However, even though many countries already have public libraries, the communities they support often overlook their use and importance and underutilize them. In sustaining these pre-existing libraries, The Global Library Initiative can train staff to provide services to users, supportive networks and broadband connectivity rather than construct new structures entirely.

The Global Library Initiative at Work to Improve Technology Access: Romania

Because the Global Library Initiative is not contained in a single country, the program works with libraries across the globe. One example of the benefits includes their partnership with Biblionet in Romania. In partnering with the Global Library Initiative through the Gates Foundation, the Association of Librarians of Romania, and local and national governments, Biblionet allowed librarians to inspire and “breathe new life into Romanian Communities.”

The Global Library Initiative equipped 80% of all of Romania’s libraries with tech tools that offered strong internet connectivity. Then, the program funded the training of just more than 4,000 librarians in using the technology in order to ensure its accessibility to the public. In doing so, more than 41,000 farmers were able to file online applications for agricultural subsidies through public libraries. This resulted in more than $63 million worth of subsidies granted to them from the Ministry of Agriculture. Without access to the internet through the public library system, the farmers would not have received their fair share of subsidies.

The Global Library Initiative is bridging the gap between access to the internet and connectivity. The program allows more individuals to access free online resources that they would otherwise not have access to. Now, the disadvantaged have access to opportunities previously only available to more fortunate individuals, thus helping bridge the poverty gap.

– Opal Vitharana
Photo: Flickr

Romania existed under the rule of communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu from 1965 to 1989. This regime maintained a highly divisive society that witnessed large levels of economic inequality. During the transition into a post-communist state, Romania placed a heavier emphasis on economic prosperity as the crux of a good democracy as opposed to increased political liberties. Due to large-scale economic structural changes during this period of transition, the nation experienced hyperinflation, the loss of millions of jobs and a significant drop in living conditions. This resulted in social disintegration and distrust, widespread corruption, increasing inequality and high levels of poverty. These ramifications are still visible today in the modern social systems in Romania, or lack thereof, that perpetuate a cycle of poverty.

A Look into Ceauşescu’s Regime

The era of communism saw Romania adopting Soviet policies, reserving ultimate authority to the communist party. This included a focus on heavy industry as opposed to consumer goods, causing mass starvation and higher rates of mortality in the nation. Citizens waited in long lines to receive basic necessities, such as bread and milk, while Ceauşescu built the Palace of the Parliament, currently the second-largest administrative building in the world, to refashion the nation’s capital city. The infamous network of the secret police, or the Securitate, instilled fear and paranoia in the country, infiltrating almost all social settings to suppress any opposition to the communist party.

As resource deprivations became more common and poverty began to affect the privileged classes, people grew more unhappy with the communist regime. The end of this era was more violent than any other communist collapse in Eastern Europe with the assassination of the Ceauşescus being the signifying turning point. The weak and disorganized opposition parties that replaced the dictatorship made for a difficult post-communist transition.

Corruption in Romania Today

The economic transition following the fall of communism in Romania saw multiple collapses with the loss of millions of jobs. This resulted in widespread rates of poverty and corruption. According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Romania is one of the most corrupt countries in the European Union with a score of 45 out of 100, “where[zero] means highly corrupt.”

Modern social systems in Romania do little to counter this and instead further the issues. In the judicial system, “bribes and irregular payments” are commonplace to secure favorable court outcomes. Corruption scandals involving judges, the court’s inconsistency and the lack of experience with a market economy and other systems make the judicial institution unreliable and incredible. Because of this, Romania weakly enforces its anti-corruption laws. Bribes and irregular payments also go toward public services, constituting the primary obstacle to maintaining a functional public administration.

Social Assistance Programs

In 2019, the World Bank reported that 23.4% of Romania’s population lived under the national poverty line poverty. In 2015, BBC News stated that poverty disproportionately impacts the Roma population in several European countries, including Romania. In addition, according to UNICEF in 2021, one in three children in Romania face the danger of “poverty or social exclusion.”

Because of a dysfunctional public administration overrun by corruption, social assistance programs are weak and difficult to access. Several programs give equal assistance regardless of whether one is wealthy or impoverished, allowing some to take advantage of this system. The lack of direct attention to those who are in need in addition to non-transparent bureaucratic procedures prevents these programs from providing real aid.

Romania’s main strategy in combating child poverty has been “child allowances and other social benefits, combined with investments in infrastructure and the promotion of economic development and jobs,” said UNICEF. However, these investments have not had any significant impact on the rates of child poverty. Cash allowances are not a sustainable solution to the other challenges that vulnerable families face, including subpar education, child abandonment and high infant mortality rates.


Nonprofit organizations such as Freedom House and UNICEF are continuously working to support anti-corruption and social assistance measures globally. Freedom House has issued annual reports and statistics analyzing Romania’s judicial framework, corruption and civil society among many other topics, providing necessary criticism to catalyze change.

UNICEF has implemented the Minimum Package of Services (MPS) solution in Romania to assist with rates of child poverty. This program is now part of the law on Social Assistance and ensures the right of every child to services in “health, nutrition, education [and] protection.” Since its onset, MPS has reduced child poverty from 30% to almost zero in certain communities, addressing issues such as “violence, early pregnancy [and] preventable diseases” through the collaboration of “at least one social worker and one community nurse” with school counselors as well as home visits and outreach work.

Looking Ahead

The flawed transition out of more than two decades of dictatorship in Romania set the stage for the current issues that the nation grapples with. Modern social systems in Romania are creating barricades that prevent real assistance from reaching those in need. This perpetuates poverty and maintains corruption. These ramifications are visible in all aspects of society and affect citizens from young to old. Therefore, intervention is necessary to reform these systems, prevent corruption, continue progressing past Ceauşescu’s regime and reduce poverty.

Kimberly Calugaru
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on Romania 
Romania is one of the most impoverished countries in the European Union. As of 2018, the country had the highest poverty rate in the union, with more than a quarter of the population living on less than $5.50 per day. Poverty has a high concentration in Romania’s rural areas, which contain most of the poverty-stricken population. The COVID-19 pandemic reached Romania relatively late compared to the rest of the European Union. The country identified its first case on February 26, 2020. COVID-19’s impact on Romania was mostly negative, lowering life expectancy and highlighting health care and medical supply disparities. A COVID-19 vaccine campaign began swiftly in Romania, yet momentum was not consistent. Lack of infrastructure for proper vaccine distribution and widespread vaccine misinformation have slowed vaccination rates. As of May 2022, around 43% of the country is fully vaccinated, the second-lowest amount among EU countries.

Government Response

At the pandemic’s start, the Romanian government promptly took measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16, 2020, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis declared a state of emergency and on March 25, the government announced a lockdown. Nearly a month later, on April 14, Romanian authorities extended a 30-day lockdown that lasted until May 14. These actions did not come without backlash – a Romanian citizen even presented a case in protest of the 30-day lockdown to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Romanian government quickly put in motion Romania’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy. According to OECD, the campaign showed priority toward medical workers, putting high-risk members of the population second. The military and certain intelligence services, including the Special Transmission Service, stepped in to help distribute the vaccine.

Vaccination rates started strong. According to Euronews, Romania was among the top three European countries with the highest rates at the beginning of 2021 but fell from grace as numbers began to decline in March of the same year. Vaccine misinformation ran rampant and discouraged citizens from receiving any doses, Euronews reports. The rural areas of Romania lack infrastructure; social services, employment opportunities and health care are hard to find. Due to this, the majority of Romania’s poor are unvaccinated. In response, the European Commission joined Romania in the communication of the vaccination campaign: 40-second videos and 20-second radio ads promoting the vaccine were played on television and radio stations, respectively.

Impact on Health Care System

Battling the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed flaws in the Romanian health care system and led to innovation. The Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance Fund entirely pay unconditional coverage for COVID-19, according to OECD. Still, not every Romanian citizen has equal access to COVID-19 care. Rural areas are lacking not only health but also general infrastructure and have difficulty benefitting from Ministry of Health actions.

A positive side of COVID-19’s impact on Romania is the creation of multiple online systems to manage health information, which gives more people access to their health data, OECD reported. Additionally, the Romanian government used the European Union’s digital COVID certificate, which is used nationwide to certify whether an individual has been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from COVID-19.

Again, these benefits of COVID-19’s impact are more present in urban areas of Romania, as around 73% of Romania’s rural areas have access to the internet, while the rate is 87% in urban areas.

Businesses and Workers

Similar to the Ministry of Health, the Romanian government was proactive in enacting policies to support small businesses and workers during the pandemic. It ensured that the financial status of the employer does not affect the employees’ wages, including multiple workplace health and safety measures. The government also released €1 billion in EU grants to benefit Romanian businesses that the pandemic impacted and extended the technical unemployment period from 30 days to a 90-day minimum.

Regardless of the measures that the government enacted, the pandemic caused an increase in unemployment. Business and working families in rural areas of Romania suffered significantly. In Galați County, registered unemployment rose from 10,414 in 2020 to 11,856 in 2021.

Although COVID-19’s impact on Romania took a significant toll on the country, especially its poor, it led to several instances of innovation and swift, beneficial government response.

– Sophie Buibas
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Disability and Poverty in RomaniaIn Romania, a former communist country in Southeastern Europe, the institutionalization of people with disabilities and orphans during Nicolae Ceaușescu’s regime has had lasting consequences on the country — especially on the societal perception of people with disabilities. However, disability rights have advanced in recent years. While mental institutions are falling out of use in Romania, the government has not replaced them with other social structures to provide opportunities for people with disabilities, leaving this group without many options. As a result, disability and poverty in Romania are closely related, with 37.6% of Romanians with disabilities at risk of poverty in 2020. Thanks to NGO work and government initiatives, this percentage is significantly lower than it was a decade ago when it stood at 44.1%.

A History of Neglect

At the end of Ceaușescu’s rule in 1989, an estimated 100,000 children were in orphanages, a result of his pro-natalist policies, which banned abortion and contraception to stimulate population growth. During this time, many families abandoned their children because of poverty or disability and Romania still grapples with the grave repercussions of Ceaușsescu’s policies today.

According to World Without Orphans, more than 50,000 Romanian children are still in the social care system. Oftentimes, children who arrived healthy to the institutions later developed disabilities due to poor conditions within the orphanages and institutions. The vast majority of Romanian adults with disabilities live independently or under private care today. However, around 17,500 are still in public residential institutions. The deinstitutionalization process in Romania is slow and ongoing and the country is struggling to replace institutions with community-based initiatives to pull Romanians with disabilities out of poverty.

Employing People With Disabilities

People with disabilities who grew up in the Ceaușescu-era orphanages are now adults and can benefit from Romania’s membership in the European Union. The EU insisted that Romania reforms its orphanage system аs a condition to enter the Union. However, stigmas around disability remain and limit the progress Romania makes. Disability and poverty in Romania are serious problems, with some estimates placing the employment rate of the disabled as low as 17.97%, according to European Semester. In 2018, the European Semester found that around 45.5% of people with disabilities had a job, but organizations may be using different metrics to define disability and employment.

Many people with disabilities are capable of working. However, employers deny them jobs or only offer the lowest-paying jobs, leading many people with disabilities into poverty. According to Eurostat, 40.9% of Romanians with disabilities report facing “difficulty making ends meet” in comparison to 28.6% of the general population.

Disability and poverty in Romania also have close links because of accessibility issues in the country. Another challenge for Romanians with disabilities is a lack of accommodations in education and the workplace as well as poor, outdated infrastructure that limits their transportation in public spaces. According to the European Semester, there is little support for children with disabilities in the education system because teachers do not have disability training and schools do not have accessibility technologies. This contributes to high percentages of young people with disabilities dropping out of school early, which is a factor that increases poverty.

Romanian Laws

While Romanian laws protect people with disabilities against discriminating behaviors within the workplace, the implementation of these laws in practice is uncommon. While laws guarantee employment and accommodation in the workplace for people with disabilities, employers are often unwilling to hire people with impediments because of prejudice and a lack of understanding of how to better support people with disabilities. Some challenges that people with disabilities face within the workplace are a lack of flexible working hours, poor infrastructure and discrimination by coworkers.

In the last decade, the Romanian government has launched many national projects to tackle disability and poverty in Romania. The Romanian National Employment Agency is launching 13 projects worth €650 million with the support of European Union funding to stimulate the employment of people with disabilities, European Semester reports. Many of these projects, such as Employ, Don’t Assist, which hopes to employ people with Down syndrome, started in the last year, therefore, data on their success is not yet available.

Ophori Cosmetics

One project that has garnered much attention is a startup company, Ophori Cosmetics. Based in Brasov, Romania, Ophori Cosmetics is a producer of handmade and sustainable cosmetics. However, the company’s focus on environmental impact is not the only reason for the media attention it gains. The company is investing in the community by creating jobs for the most vulnerable and the entire production staff of Ophori Cosmetics consists of people with disabilities.

According to Bogdan Dimciu, an administrator at Ophori Cosmetics, the enterprise began as a workshop where people with disabilities created products for donation to the community, acquiring skills in the process to aid in their future success in the job market. The founders of Ophori then made a decision to turn the project into a company. All of the employees in Ophori’s production team earn fair wages and continue to receive training from volunteers and therapists to develop their skills.

Looking Ahead

Ophori Cosmetics’ success shows that the perception of people with disabilities in Romania is slowly changing. Small steps such as this can ensure that more people with disabilities secure employment, allowing them to contribute to the economy as productive members of society. While many people with disabilities rely on social benefits to survive, they often do not receive enough to lift them out of poverty. According to European Semester, the monthly allowance of 265 Romanian lei is not enough to make a significant impact on the quality of life of Romanians with disabilities, especially because this marginalized group can often only access the lowest-paying jobs.

Despite Romanian laws ensuring the rights of people with liabilities to employment, many employers are skeptical of hiring people with disabilities and do not know what support to offer. Disability and poverty in Romania are closely related due to a history of neglect and continuing stigmas around disability, but both private and public sectors are making progress.

– Emma Tkacz
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Among the Roma in Bucharest
Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is a vibrant urban city with booming contemporary institutions and a greater income per capita than the European Union average. However, there remains a population of individuals that do not benefit from Bucharest’s expanding economy: the Roma. Poverty among the Roma in Bucharest is of particular concern. According to Brookings, the Roma in Romania face an employment rate of about 72% and endure a poverty rate of almost 70%.

Who Are the Roma People?

Scholars agree that the Roma people’s ancestors immigrated to Europe from the Punjab region of Northern India, across “what is now Iran, Armenia and Turkey.” From the ninth century forward, the Roma progressively expanded throughout Europe.

As a nomadic group traveling with few essentials or assets, the Roma face widespread marginalization in Europe. Dating back to the 14th century, some of the Roma arrived in Bucharest, Romania, where they became slaves of the state, institutions or private people. In 1860, the Roma became free but they still relied completely on the state and landowners for sustenance and survival. Some Roma attempted to break this dependency by banding together in clans and migrating.

The Roma in Bucharest

The European Union (EU) is home to “between 10 million and 12 million Roma” people. According to the Council of Europe, roughly 1.85 million Roma reside in Romania and make up 8.32% of the population. These are all preliminary estimates because the Roma people usually choose to reveal their ethnicity only to other Roma people. This renders it challenging to estimate the actual number of Roma people in Romania’s capital of Bucharest, although there is no uncertainty that a considerable number of Roma people reside in Bucharest.

Roma Poverty

The Roma people live and travel in close-knit groups with large families. The Roma are one of Europe’s most prominent ethnic minorities. Aside from these characteristics, people know very little about the Roma people; they speak their own language, which is undocumented, they have unique traditions and they keep to themselves.

Poverty among the Roma in Bucharest is largely the most pressing issue within their communities. Seen as a “problem” within Bucharest, the Roma population reside in slums or ghettos where they live in close quarters with few possessions. In the slums, the Roma often live in squalor with minimal food or water.

The Roma people labor in very specific occupations such as fortune-telling, metalwork and agricultural work. Some, on the other hand, do not occupy genuine occupations, but instead, steal and swindle in order to supplement their income due to their circumstances of poverty. Because the Roma face high rates of unemployment, they end up with minimal means of survival.

Apart from marginalization, one of the main issues that greatly contributes to their circumstances of poverty is a lack of education. Because of a lack of documentation or identification, the Roma struggle to access education, health care and other essential services. The Roma experience profound deprivation across every standard —  education, employment and health.

Roma Discrimination

In Bucharest, Europeans often refer to the Roma people as Gypsies, which is a discriminatory term when used by individuals of non-Roma descent. In fact, the term “Gypsy” is one of the most derogatory social labels in Europe, particularly in Romania. The discrimination the Roma endure also impacts their access to the necessary services and resources to live a better quality of life.

What is the Drug Problem?

Many Roma people in Bucharest rely on drugs to help them cope with their difficult circumstances. Drug use is common among individuals of all ages in Bucharest’s Roma ghettos. In an interview with author Max Daly, Dan Popescu, harm-reduction services coordinator at the Asociatia Romana Anti-SIDA (ARAS) said that “The general public’s attitude to the Roma and to the drug addicts is that we are wasting money on nothing, that it’s better to let them die than to help them.”

Due to their lack of legitimate identification, only 45% of the Roma have access to health care and welfare benefits. Roma drug users often use unclean needles, leaving their community with high rates of HIV and hepatitis C. The fact that authorities rarely acknowledge the Roma only exacerbates the situation.

The Good News

The Romanian Harm Reduction Network (RHRN) aims to reduce “risky behaviors” linked with drug abuse “by increasing the degree of communication between partner organizations and improving the quality of services for drug users at the national level.” RHRN develops and encourages reforms aimed at facilitating the application of successful socioeconomic strategies and initiatives aimed at drug users and various socially marginalized subgroups.

To address the drug problem among people in Bucharest, the RHRN provides training to professionals to enhance their “capacity in harm reduction and HIV prevention service provision.” The curriculum covers topics such as syringe exchange initiatives and treatment with opiate substitutes as well as guidelines for communication and advocacy. These collective efforts ensure a more comprehensive response to the drug problem in Romania, with a particular focus on marginalized groups like the Roma.

Despite the fact that the Roma encounter poverty and oppression in Bucharest, various groups are working to help them rise out of poverty to become an empowered, self-sufficient and thriving population.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty Rate in Romania
The elderly poverty rate in Romania is a challenge to not only the elderly population but also the country itself. Romania’s poverty rates for retired individuals and elders over the age of 65 have increased drastically from an already high level.

The Issue

Romania’s elderly at-risk poverty rate reached a record high of 25.1% in the year 2020, whereas it was previously 14.4% in 2012. Additionally, 24.5% of elderly women in Romania are under the poverty line with a pension, comparable to the record high of 25.7% in 2016 and a record low of 22.1% in 2010. Comparably, males with pensions reached a record high of 18% in 2020 and a record low of 7.9% in 2012.

These statistics present an evident truth; as the years pass in Romania, the elderly poverty rate is quickly rising. This leads poor elders to search for work to make enough money to survive, which they often do not have the qualifications for. In the end, impoverished elders rely on pension payments, which some do not even qualify for, while others struggle to survive below the poverty line.

Romania’s Health Care System

Romania has a dual health care system. Similar to countries such as Australia, it has both a private and a public health care system. However, its system differs from others when it comes to the government’s involvement. Romania’s government spends an average of 4% of the country’s GDP on health care, which is one of the lowest rates in the EU. The government does not fund private healthcare, thus leading those in poverty towards government-funded health care, which has proven to be inadequate. Furthermore, those who do pay for private health care do not always get a better deal. Since the government is uninvolved financially, private hospitals can overcharge patients exorbitant amounts for as little as a consultation.

Also, since the year 2007, about 15,700 Romanian medical experts from both private and government-funded institutions left the country to pursue a better salary in other European countries. With a sub-par salary for Romania’s government-paid doctors (some specialists receive as little as $350 a month), Romanian doctors often resort to bribery, in which they charge patients additional fees for even the simplest consultations.

In terms of the elderly poverty rate in Romania, it is clear that either of the two options for health care in Romania can be costly, and their physical health frequently undergoes neglect. As of 2020, only 23.4% of Romanians over the age of 65 would rate their health conditions as “good” or “very good,” while the EU average is almost double this, at 41.1%. Additionally, 66.7% of these people reported issues with walking, and 51.9% with vision problems, which they cannot treatments for. In comparison, only about 40% of adults over the age of 65 in the United States have a disability.

The Pension Problem

Romania’s pension system is likely to face challenges due to the country’s aging population. Romania is facing a demographic challenge, with a population decline of approximately 25% from 21.4 million in 2008 to approximately 15 million in 2050. Though Romania will most likely face additional challenges as a result of the projected population drop, one major issue could be pensions.

Furthermore, the proportion of elderly people in Romania could reach 29.9% by 2050, subsequently leading to a strain on the pension system. With an aging population, more people will require pensions, putting the government in a dilemma about whether to pay the full amount necessary. As proven with the health care system that the Romanian government provided, the corrupt country will not be eager to allocate so much money to pensions.

Having said that, Romania does have a solid pension system in place, which is based on citizens’ contribution to the economy over a minimum contribution period of 15 years. However, a growing elderly population could cause the country’s pension system to crash according to projections, potentially impacting the elderly poverty rate in Romania.

Lastly, another issue with the Romanian pension system is the fraud that seems to consistently reappear throughout the years. One of the greatest scandals occurred in 2009, in which Romania reported $7.15 million in pension fraud. Resolving an issue like this would require stronger pension security and a potential re-evaluation of the pension granting system.

People Against Poverty

People Against Poverty is an NGO that works in six countries, including Romania, to reduce poverty levels. It has been working to reduce poverty in Romania since 2003 and has hosted a variety of projects, including an Agricultural Project which provides resources for people in Romania who live in rural communities. NGOs like People Against Poverty are extremely important when considering poverty reduction in entire countries, and the implementation of its programs can help in solving Romania’s elderly poverty issue.

Elderly poverty in Romania has been an increasing problem within the past decade, and will likely continue to be one into the future. It remains in the hands of the Romanian government to solve this problem before the elderly population reaches a peak. However, hope exists that the population will regulate itself, or that the economy will open more jobs for impoverished elders. With the help of NGOs like People Against Poverty and the growing economy in Romania, there is certainly hope that the elderly poverty rate will decline over the upcoming years.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Unsplash

Romania Battles Recent Diseases
Romania is a beautiful country with rich culture and colorful nature. Romania maintains its traditional folklife with a clash of modernism. If one visited Romania, saw pictures or even watched a documentary, one would see the old and new structural buildings with sheep and cows plaguing the streets. Although thriving, many still consider the country an economically developing nation, with many aspects needing assistance. Currently, Romania is concerned with these recent diseases: the Coronavirus and measles. Diseases in Romania may not always be treatable, but vaccines can make them preventable. 

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted every country. However, it has disproportionately affected those in developing countries like Romania. On February 26, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 received confirmation. Soon after, the coronavirus disease became one of the many diseases in Romania. Romania did not have a stable healthcare system. It did not have the proper resources such as medical equipment, supplies, personnel and let alone enough medical establishments to aid those in more rural areas.

According to The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) data graph, Romania appears to face continuously increased spikes of daily infections. The projection estimated for hospital resource use, both beds needed and intensive care units would increase and be in high demand by October 18, 2021. Currently, 27% of Romania’s population has received two vaccinations, compared to 54% in the U.S. Many expect that Romania will stay at 27% while the U.S.’ vaccination percentage continues to grow. Due to the severity of the situation, Romanian authorities took action to spread a national campaign through media channels such as social media and television news to more spaced-out areas in Romania.


Measles is an infectious disease that affects the respiratory system yet may come across as simple flu. The contagious disease can spread through sneezing and coughing and it is not easy to detect. Many of the diseases in Romania are not curable or treatable but people can prevent them through vaccines and proper methods of prevention. Based on the article, “Measles Epidemics in Romania: Lessons for Public Health and Future Policy” by Stefan Dascalu, measles is the main leading cause of child deaths in Romania. This preventable disease led to the deaths of children, younger than 5 years of age. Although the cases of measles decreased from 1982, it is still endemic.

There are actually two doses of the measles vaccine, which are MCV1 and MCV2. Records and expectations stated that the vaccine coverage would be greater than 95% during the 2000s era. However, in the year 2010, a decreased trend of coverage appeared. By 2014, the trend declined to 89% of coverage only with those receiving the first dose. Unfortunately, the trend will likely continue to decline. In 2016, the most recent outbreak occurred where there were cases that exceed the number of 15,500. Additionally,  the death rates reached 59 individuals who died as a result of measles by the year 2018. The high rates of deaths could be due to many components: the lack of vaccination coverage distributed to areas of the countryside, lack of adequate supplies and the lack of parents’ understanding/ education to vaccinate their children.

Improvements that Leads to Solutions

According to the article, “Romania: Thriving cities, rural poverty, and a trust deficit” by Donato De Rosa and Yeon Soo Kim, Romania has both an urban side and a rural side. Bucharest is an example of Romania’s part that is thriving as a city with a contemporary and profitable system. However, some smaller villages are in the past. As many consider Romania to be an underdeveloped country, it does not have certain advantages like the United States. For instance, Romania faces poverty that has resulted in the lack of a proper health care system and resources for residents in rural areas. Providing foreign aid is a key component to allow these countries to gain stability. Becoming stable will likely help these countries alleviate poverty. This in turn will help economically and strengthen bonds with the other nations.

Member of the European Union

As the World Bank stated in the “Golden Growth: Restoring the Lustre of the European Economic Model,” the European Union (EU) has a goal to converge developing countries for improvement and also for economic benefits. In 2001, the EU integrated Romania as part of its “Golden Growth” model. The EU developed The Golden Growth model for economic convergence, in sections such as trade, finance, enterprise, innovation, labor and government.

There were significant reforms that took place in Romania as a result of the growth model. Reforms included a transition from labor-based and low technology methods to more advanced use of machinery and electronic tools. Between 2014 and 2020, Romania received 17.6 billion euros in investments to improve the nation’s poor infrastructure. The EU’s aid positively impacted Romania’s degree of efficiency and way of life. In turn, this led to Romania’s population decreasing “from 22.8 to 19.6 million since 2000, and is expected to keep falling.” This is a great indication of Romania’s improvement since more children are surviving and thus parents are having fewer children. Still, it is essential to implement better public health programs. Foreign aid to provide supplies to the population and improved education on the importance of immunization for low-income communities can also significantly boost Romania from extreme poverty.

Foreign Aid

Although the diseases in Romania appeared to be dire, the county is not alone in facing these challenges. As a member of the EU since 2007, Romania has received assistance from fellow nations for resources. Romanian authorities’ response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was moderately swift, but it did not live up to its full potential due to the lack of medical supplies, equipment, and knowledge about the disease.

When the next outbreak struck, the country was better able to respond with the proper procedures and knowledge in place. In regards to measles, Romanian medical practitioners are developing strategies to spread the information on vaccines to poorer communities. These strategies range from advertisements to campaigns carried out on flyers. Romania has certainly come a long way from the original state of poverty. Overall, providing more foreign aid is a key component in forming stability in these countries. The U.S. does currently assist Romania but needs to do more with the assets it has.

– Jenny Liang
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in Romania
Periods can be uncomfortable, embarrassing and expensive. One box of 32 tampons in Bucharest, Romania, costs 15 lei or approximately $3.61. Although this may seem like a small price to pay, the typical female “uses 20 regular tampons per cycle – and therefore 240 per year,” meaning that the average woman spends an estimated $27 per year on menstrual products, a hefty sum for families living in poverty. For this reason, period poverty in Romania is significant.

Period Poverty in Romania

According to period poverty hero and activist Irina Vasilescu, “in Romania, menstruation is a big taboo but at the same time very subtle.” There are many myths surrounding periods and much secrecy regarding what type of products women and girls should use to prevent visible bleeding. Vasilescu recalled the many instances where she educated youth on menstruation, mentioning that parents often asked for the curriculum to remove demonstrations on how to use pads and tampons from the curriculum. Parents wanted their children to know what a period is but not how to utilize the very methods designed to prevent the shame that many people associate with getting a period.

Effects of Period Poverty

Despite many misconceptions, the inability to afford menstrual products is not the only definition of period poverty. Lack of access to period products such as tampons, pads and wet wipes is also a significant part of the problem. Regarding period poverty in Romania, many homeless women or low-income families struggle to afford menstrual products and turn to old rags such as cut-up socks, underwear or t-shirts to prevent blood from seeping through their clothing. When many girls in Romania first get their periods, they simply abstain from attending school for fear of experiencing public ridicule. This is problematic because young girls are forfeiting their education due to a lack of access to feminine hygiene products. After all, it is no secret that generations of societal shame have indirectly taught women and girls to feel disgusted by a natural process of their bodies.

Pe Stop Addresses Period Poverty in Romania

Pe Stop is a Romanian NGO that emerged to provide women and girls with feminine hygiene products as well as accurate information regarding menstruation to reduce common misconceptions surrounding periods, including the idea that utilizing tampons can take away girls’ virginity. Volunteers run Pe Stop, managing “packaging, acquisition, distribution” and “field trips for fundraising campaigns.” The packages that those suffering from period poverty in Romania receive contain masks, menstrual pads, disinfectant gel and sometimes wet wipes, condoms, underwear and dry wipes. Again, since this NGO runs on a volunteer basis, Pe Stop depends heavily on funding and donations to survive and provide for the public.

Pe Stop has managed to sustain itself through its “education first” initiative. Conducting classes to teach women and girls about proper menstrual care leaves them with a lasting knowledge on the subject that they can continue to pass on from generation to generation. Vasilescu mentions that even if funding were to dry up, “no one can take the information on how to take care of yourself properly in any situation. If you receive the information once, it stays with you.”

Concluding Thoughts

Although it can be uncomfortable to discuss, menstruation signifies womanhood. Thankfully, organizations such as Pe Stop recognize the issue and are aiding period poverty in Romania through education. As more people become aware of the myths of menstruation and learn the tools necessary to make the transition to womanhood as seamless as possible, knowledge surrounding periods will become normalized and the negative stigma that many people associate with periods will evaporate.

– Sara Jordan Ruttert
Photo: Flickr

Nadia Comaneci
The dynasty of Romanian gymnastics dates back to the 1976 Montreal Summer Games when Nadia Comaneci earned the first perfect score in gymnastics for her uneven bars routine. Her success kickstarted a legacy of greatness for other Romanian teams in future games.

Fast forward 40 years and the story changed significantly. In 2016, the Romanian team’s fifth-place Olympic qualifying finish terminated their ability to defend their country’s four-decades-long medal streak in the sport. The sole athlete to represent Romania in women’s gymnastics was Catalina Ponor who competed on the floor and balance beam apparatuses but failed to win a medal.

The downfall of Romanian gymnastics is not due to a lack of talent or ability. Rather, it is due to a combination of economic factors that make Olympic glory less lucrative than in years past.

The History of Romania’s Economy

From the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu held a firm grip on the country’s economy. Unlike other Eastern European nations, Ceauşescu felt the best way of controlling the economy was to dictate individual economic transactions and freedom.

In a 1974 speech, he stated that “To give everyone the freedom of spending society’s money on whatever, and however, it might strike one’s mind—this is not possible. We have a planned economy. Nobody has the right to build or produce what is not provided for by the Plan. “The practices of restrictive employment cards and decreased labor movement made individual economic growth difficult to attain.

The Reward of Winning

Each country differs in its rewards for Olympic champions. In 2016, the BBC reported that Romanian athletes earn $79,000 and a monthly income for life if they win gold.

As of 2021, the minimum wage in Romania is just under 500 EUR. Just 10 years ago, it was less than half of the current average.

The prize for winning gold is still relatively high in comparison to the minimum income in Romania. However, the reward may not be worth the cost of lifelong dedication and, at times, abuse.

Abuse in Romanian Gymnastics

The downfall of Romanian gymnastics was inevitable. Just in 2021, Olympic coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi received accusations of abusing Romanian and American gymnasts as early as the 1960s.

In particular, the previously mentioned Nadia Comaneci was one of the athletes who experienced abuse. She was “starved to the point of developing eating disorders, slapped and denied medical treatment,” according to The Washington Post. Romanian author Stejarel Olaru’s book, “Nadia and the Securitate,” further details her abuse.

Olaru further detailed the abuse, saying that “the girls ate toothpaste before going to bed – this is how hungry they were. In some cases, they talked about drinking water from the toilet tank in secret because they were often not allowed to drink water.”

The Karolyis defected to U.S. in 1981. Bela coached all-around gold medalist Mary Lou Retton and the 1992 U.S. national team. Martha coached the gold-medal-winning 1996 U.S. national team.

The Current State of Romania’s Economy

Since 2019, the primary economic focus has been on, according to the World Bank, “strengthening Romania’s institutions, advancing poverty reduction and promoting shared prosperity” through:

  1. Providing equal opportunity for success.
  2. Growth within the private sector.
  3. Prevention of economic shocks.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) allocated almost $2 billion. This money went to various sectors such as education, health and the environment.

The Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS), a World Bank program, dedicated another $114 million for “improved strategic planning and budgeting, evidence-based policymaking, protection of the vulnerable, disaster risk management, human development and strengthened capacity for monitoring and evaluation.”

The Advisory Services and Analytics (ASA) program, also through the World Bank, funds projects such as the inclusion of the minority ethnic group Roma, development of the business sector and improved infrastructure.

The Connection to Gymnastics

The improved economic situation in Romania allows for the average Romanian citizen to achieve moderate economic comfort. If a Romanian wants to succeed economically, they can now attain it through more traditional means such as working or acquiring an education.

Simply put, there is less of a need to dedicate life to sports like gymnastics to live a comfortable life. The wider range of economic opportunities and the abuse that plagued the lives of 1970s Romanian gymnasts like Comaneci attributed to the downfall of Romanian gymnastics.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Romania
Romania, an Eastern European country bordering Ukraine and Hungary, is infamous for its struggles with children’s rights. A quarter of the nation lives below the poverty line, and furthermore, almost one-third of all children in Romania live below the poverty line. The rate of child poverty in Romania is one of the highest in the whole European Union.

Childhood Poverty in Romania

Romania has one of the highest poverty rates in Europe and the issue of child poverty is especially pressing. According to the Independent, child poverty in Romania has worsened in recent years due to three main reasons: “a higher rate of unemployment, a wider gap between rural and urban areas in terms of investment, education and employment opportunities” as well as “a general descending economic trend after the 2008 financial crisis.” Though the number of working children has decreased in recent years, still, 1% of children work, involved in begging, washing car windows or working as brickmakers. Some families sell their children to mafias who recruit them to join gangs or sex traffick them in Romania or in other European countries.

Rural Child Poverty

Today, child poverty is the worst in rural areas of Romania where 45% of the population lives. Most rural Romanians are impoverished subsistence farmers, leading to their children growing up in poverty-stricken conditions. Access to education and proper medical facilities is not as available as it is in cities. Many rural Romanians cannot pay for medical services, which has resulted in a severe lack of doctors in the countryside. In addition, the country decreased its education budget because of dire economic conditions, which led to a shortage of teachers. Furthermore, 400,000 children are not attending school.


Several organizations have been working in Romania with the main goal of promoting the rights of children and lobbying the government in order to alleviate childhood poverty. The National Council of Students represents all the country’s students by defending students’ rights and lobbying for a reformed educational system. Another organization, the Children’s Board, comprises children of different ages from all over the country. It strives to create a governance that protects children of all ethnicities and backgrounds.

These organizations work to keep children’s voices heard in different capacities, a pressing task considering the treatment of children during Romania’s communist days. Four of the leading child protection organizations joined to produce the “Child Rights Now! Romania” report. The report details how child rights have improved since the end of communism and the execution of Romanian communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, in 1989. The report also highlights issues to address in order to improve child rights and decrease poverty levels, plus several tangible solutions.

More organizations are addressing child poverty in Romania than ever before. Under Ceaușescu’s regime, Romanian children living in poverty had no rights. Hopefully now, with the help of various advocacy organizations working with the government, improvements will alleviate child poverty in Romania.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr