Hunger in Romania
Romania, one of the least urbanized countries in the European Union, is home to eight UNESCO world heritage sites. Yet of the 27 EU member countries, Romania has the sixth-largest population with only the 15th-largest gross domestic product. Poverty, hunger and instability are key issues in Romania where 25% of the population lives on $5.50 per day. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Romania.

10 Facts About Hunger in Romania

  1. In 2018, Romania received a ranking as the second-highest EU country for the percentage of its population at risk of poverty and social exclusion. In fact, poverty impacts approximately 32.5% of its population or 6.5 million people. Romania’s poverty and inequality are due to high unemployment rates, overall low levels of education and regional gaps between urbanized and rural communities.
  2. Rural Romania includes 75% of the country’s impoverished population. The Romani or Roma people, a minority group, are most likely to live in non-urbanized slums, and experience discrimination, poverty and hunger. On average, 40% of Roma living in the EU experience hunger at least once per month. In Romania, the Roma employment rate is 28%, and the poverty rate is nearly 70%.
  3. Despite its poverty rate, Romania’s 2019 Global Hunger Index score is less than five. This means the prevalence of hunger in Romania is low relative to other countries globally. However, child stunting, or the share of children under the age of 5 whose growth has experienced stunting due to malnutrition, is 6.6%. When comparing this to the less than 2.5% of undernourished individuals in the Romanian population, it is clear that child hunger in Romania is disproportionately high. Child stunting is a consequence of insufficient nutrient intake and absorption due to hunger, inadequate nutrition and poor diets.
  4. The poverty rate in Romania’s rural areas is three times higher than in urban areas. As of 2016, 5% of families living in rural Romania encounter difficulty ensuring that their children have a quality diet. Romania’s national Roma integration strategy aims to combat poverty and hunger among its rural Roma populations by increasing education and employment rates, and by improving access to healthcare and housing.
  5. Romania’s economy has improved significantly in recent years. At 11.7%, Romania had the second-largest decrease in poverty among EU member states from 2008 to 2018. In tandem with this decrease in poverty, hunger rates in Romania have decreased. Romania’s Global Hunger Index score fell from 8.3 in 2000 to 5.6 in 2010 and to its most recent score of below five.
  6. Romania is one of the largest producers of wheat and maize in the EU Relative to an EU average of 4.9%, approximately 23% of Romanians have employment in agricultural industries. While Romania benefits from an expanding agricultural industry, droughts and adverse weather cause frequent instability in agricultural output and in the lives of Romanians working in the agricultural industry. By the end of 2021, forecasts determine that grain production will decrease by 2.6% as expectations are that dry weather conditions will reduce the 2020 and 2021 winter crop yields.
  7. Organizations like Mission Without Borders NZ are fighting hunger in the six poorest countries in Eastern Europe, including Romania. The organization sponsors children in their pursuit of education while also helping families out of poverty. Mission Without Borders NZ does this, in part, by providing families with the resources and animals they need to begin farming. In 2018, the organization sponsored 4,810 children and 2,023 families and donated over 30,000 parcels of food, clothing and other necessities. The organization also delivered 29,000 food parcels and served over 170,566 meals in its soup kitchens in 2019.
  8. The European Anti-Poverty Network Romania (EAPN RO), RENASIS, emerged in 2008. This branch of the EAPN helps combat the impact of poverty and inequality in Romania. RENASIS, originally an acronym in Romanian, stands for the National Anti-Poverty Social Inclusion Network when translated to English. It supported and worked to strengthen the Minimum Income Schemes in Romania, which are income support measures that provide a safety net for individuals who are unable to work and are not eligible for social insurance payments.
  9. Romania’s government has taken significant steps toward combat poverty, socio-economic instability and hunger in Romania. These steps include the implementation of the Romania National Strategy and Strategic Action Plan on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction for 2015-2020. The government also created a comprehensive package of 47 anti-poverty measures. These new measures aid marginalized populations and aim to increase social inclusion and economic competitiveness through socio-economic integration.
  10. Romania supports the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda aims to end inequality, poverty and hunger while improving access to clean water and sanitation, and affordable and clean energy. Romania’s agenda implementation strategy focuses on supporting the inclusion of people with disabilities, youth and women in policies of development. The country has also focused on stimulating and improving its energy sector, which helps influence economic growth in the country.

The situation in Romania has improved in recent years. However, many people remain vulnerable to poverty and hunger in Romania. Through continued legislation and anti-poverty initiatives, Romania is working to reduce the number of vulnerable people within its borders and increase stability in the lives of people across the country.

Zoe Engels
Photo: Flickr

Homelessnesss in Romania
Research determines that there are 14,000 homeless people in Romania. Bucharest, the capital of Romania, has around 5,000. However, the country’s residents lack awareness of the very large and still growing homeless population that surrounds them. Eradicating social exclusion could help contribute to a reduction of homelessness in Romania.

Street Children

Romania has an estimated 1,000 children living on the streets. This high number is a result of the country’s economic inability to afford adequate housing for these children. In fact, one might find a 7-year-old child finding shelter in underground tunnels of the city or public places, hiding from danger and trying to stay warm. Social workers are working together in an effort to become involved in every community. Their ultimate goal is to use their knowledge, skills and resources to help children register as citizens so they can obtain access to education and healthcare.

Protecting children through adoption processes is critical in order to prevent intervention from birth parents who may later come back for the children they had abandoned with ulterior motives. In response, the Hague Convention emerged to prevent child trafficking and is becoming a widespread private law treaty to protect homeless children from exposure to trafficking.

Living Conditions

Communities in Romania reject considering the homeless equal human beings. To that extent, the conditions of the homeless involve living in sewer canals and spending their days gathering around semi-public spaces begging.

Strategies for Improvement

The European Social Policy Network (ESPN) supports the European Commission in monitoring social policy issues in the E.U., its neighboring countries and developing countries. It provides an overview of policies addressing key challenges in areas of social inclusion and protection. The 2019 ESPN Thematic Report on National Strategies to fight Homelessness and Housing Exclusion focuses on homelessness in Romania and recognizes the need for more resources. These resources and services include:

  • Assistance and Social reintegration.

  • Residential centers for homeless, at-risk people such as victims of domestic violence and young people in difficult situations.

  • Day shelters and night shelters to provide psychological support.

The World Bank works to develop projects that take into consideration Romania’s need for equality in education, employment and access to public services. All of these three services all target aiding the homeless population. Currently, the World Bank has created a partnership strategy with Romania that includes building a 21st-century government, supporting growth and job creation and supporting greater social inclusion.

Recently, the Romanian government passed an anti-poverty package that consists of 47 measures to combat poverty. This package includes increasing the employment rate, reducing the early school drop-out rate and scaling-up national health programs.

The World Bank has plans to help the homeless in Romania using anti-poverty legislative measures that are up for debate in the Romanian Parliament. The new policies aim to consolidate existing programs such as the Heating Benefit, Family Benefit and Guaranteed Minimum Income, all of which are costly and do not always go to the people who need them most.

Social Exclusion

The fall of communism in 1989 left many Romanian families in unsafe houses. In recent years, there has been a controversy over the reason for these evictions. Many of the evictions pushed families out with little warning and left them homeless or relocated to unsafe and undesirable locations near main garbage dumps or old chemical factories.

Social Inclusion

Estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that neuropsychiatric disorders contribute to 19.9% of the global burden of disease. Around 1% of the Romania population suffers from mental disorders. Out of the 166,594 people who suffer from mental disorders, 28,895 are children. Changing the way people perceive homelessness in Romania could also change how the homeless view themselves.

The lack of nutrition and stability in the lives of the homeless only worsens how they see themselves psychologically. Their negative view of self makes it impossible for them to believe in a positive change for the future. The higher the value people regard homeless individuals with, the better chance the entire community will come together to not only provide housing and shelter but also to equip the homeless with the ability to envision a better future for themselves.

Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in Romania
Romania is a country of around 20 million people located in Southeastern Europe. Since the fall of communism in 1989, the country has transitioned to a democracy with more personal freedoms and a better economic outlook. Economic trends have improved since Romania joined the European Union in 2007. Even though Romania has enjoyed high levels of growth in recent decades, it remains plagued by corruption and the emigration of skilled professionals to other European nations. These issues create problems for healthcare in Romania. Here are five facts about healthcare in Romania.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Romania

  1. Healthcare in Romania ranks last in Europe. Romania regularly falls around last place in the European Health Consumer Index. It has an underfunded and inefficient system, which consistently fails to provide quality care. Worse than being inadequate, Romanian hospitals are often dangerous. Poorly trained staff often do not follow proper medical procedures and expose patients to unsanitary conditions. In a maternity ward in 2018, an antibiotic-resistant superbug infected 39 babies.
  2. The government plays a large role in the failures of healthcare in Romania. Romania has a program of universal health insurance. There is a mandatory payroll tax which the country uses to provide coverage to the entire population. Romania consistently spends around 4% of its GDP on healthcare, which is one of the lowest rates in the E.U. In addition to health insurance, the government also operates a majority of the hospitals in the country, many of which are aging and chronically underfunded. The country has built very few new hospitals since the end of communism. While Romania has opened the door to private insurance and hospitals over the past few decades, they have yet to take off.
  3. Low salaries are driving corruption. Despite having universal health coverage in practice, many Romanians end up having to pay out of pocket to get quality care. Underpaid hospital staff usually receive bribes to get their attention. This has created a system where the wealthy patients receive better treatment, while those unable to pay experience neglect. This culture of bribery has become a huge problem for many Romanian hospitals.
  4. There is a shortage of doctors in Romania. Romania’s entrance to the E.U. allowed more than 15,000 doctors to leave the country in search of jobs with better pay in other European countries. There is an acute shortage of healthcare professionals in the country, with around 30% of positions unfilled. The situation is worse in rural areas where salaries are lower and there is less oversight. Medical graduates and skilled doctors may continue to leave the country as long as hospitals have unfavorable working conditions.
  5. Nonprofits are filling in the gaps in healthcare in Romania. Even though the Romanian government has been unable to improve healthcare infrastructure, nonprofits are taking important action. The Give Life Association is one such group, having already built a state-of-the-art leukemia diagnosis lab and facilities to triple Romania’s organ transplant capacity. The Give Life Association is a private organization that raises funds to build important public medical infrastructure. Its current project is a major new hospital in Bucharest, Romania. The cause has drawn widespread attention in Romania, raising over $30 million from 300,000 people and 4,000 companies. The organization estimates that it will complete the new hospital in 2021.

Ending corruption would go a long way to improving the quality of healthcare in Romania. Recently, there have been signs that the government understands this and is willing to take meaningful action to end bribes and raise salaries for doctors. As a whole, medical salaries have been growing much quicker than the national average. There are hopes that higher wages will reduce the impact of bribes and entice skilled doctors to stay in the country. It will be a long process to correct the deeply flawed healthcare system in Romania. However, progress is possible if the government and the private sector work together toward reform.

Jack McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Poverty in Romania
Romania, like much of the former Communist Bloc, experienced extreme poverty under communism. Although communist rule ended over 30 years ago, the country still experiences the lingering effects of communism on its economy and quality of life. In 2017, approximately 4.6 million Romanians lived at or below the Romanian national poverty line, a standard assessed by the cost of living and certain social policies. Poverty in Romania concentrates in rural areas, where about 46% of the population lives, according to recent estimates. Here are the ways in which the government seeks to reduce poverty in Romania.

The National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction

In 2015, the European Union (E.U.) and the Romanian government devised the National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction to help reduce poverty in Romania. The strategy aimed to lift 580,000 people from poverty by 2020 and increase employment for poor and other vulnerable groups. It also provided financial support for poor or at-risk citizens. Additionally, it promoted social inclusion of marginalized communities such as the Roma people, and improved social services like health care and education. In addition to this plan, Romania also passed a 47-point plan to combat poverty in 2015.

Many have regarded this plan as overly ambitious. Unfortunately, much of the National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction remains only on paper. This is not to say, however, that it has not made an impact on reducing poverty in Romania. Since the creation of this plan, the percentage of Romania’s population at risk of living in poverty has dropped from 40.2 percent in 2015 to 35.7 percent in 2017. Since the implementation of the National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty, the Romanian government has been able to allocate more funding for active labor market policies, including financial bonuses and job training. Additionally, Romania has received funding from the European Social Fund for projects to increase the effectiveness of the Romanian National Employment Agency. Despite these improvements, Romania still ranks as the second most impoverished nation in the E.U., after Bulgaria.

Looking Forward

In addition to continuing the work on current programs, the country is looking forward to more improvements in the coming years. By 2023, the Romanian government has set a goal of improving access to education. Increasing educational opportunities in Romania is especially important. The country has the highest child poverty rate in the E.U. at nearly 50%. Children living in poverty are more likely to have to leave school, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty in Romania. By making education more accessible, children at risk of poverty have more opportunities to break the cycle.

Despite drastic improvements in the levels of poverty and social inclusion in Romania, millions of Romanians are still at risk. The Romanian government and E.U. implemented the National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction in 2015. Unfortunately, problems obtaining funding have made it difficult to implement this plan in its entirety. However, some changes have occurred, improving the situation for a small portion of the Romanian population. The government’s future plans to reduce poverty in Romania, including improving access to education for impoverished children, aim to continue to improve the country’s poverty crisis.

– Jessica Cohen
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Romania
Romania, like the rest of the world, is currently dealing with the global outbreak of the virus, COVID-19. The pandemic has affected health services and the economy, disproportionately affecting the poor populations of Romania. In response to the growing pandemic, the government issued ordinances to prevent the spread of the virus. Here are some facts about how Romania is responding to COVID-19.

8 Facts About COVID-19 in Romania

  1. Romania issued strict stay-at-home orders. Romania’s government responded quickly to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Romanian government issued an ordinance on March 22, 2020 that requires people to stay at home. They can, however, leave home for essential goods or health care. The Romanian government also established a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. These ordinances also closed retail stores and prohibited large gatherings. These orders are all part of Romania’s plan to limit person to person contact during the pandemic.
  2. Romania enforced travel restrictions for the elderly. The Romanian government also issued another ordinance on March 29, 2020, specifically allowing for those 65 years and older to leave their homes for medical reasons only. It also placed restrictions on certain times of the day.  The Romanian government recognizes that this elderly age group needs medical care. The elderly are also a vulnerable age group and need to take further precautions when traveling outside their homes.
  3. Romania has provided hotel rooms for health care workers. The Romanian government secured hotel rooms for public health care workers.  Public health care workers have an increased risk of spreading COVID-19 to family members in their home. The hotel rooms will help these health care workers protect their families. Health care workers can use these rooms in between calls and shifts.
  4. Utility bills cannot increase. The Romanian government is also ensuring that citizens’ utility bills do not increase due to economic hardships. Given the stay-at-home orders, utility bills could increase due to the increased use of electricity, heat and gas in their homes. However, the Romanian government is trying to prevent economic hardships by prohibiting the increase of utility bills.
  5. Less than 6% of COVID-19 patients have died. Romania has reported 1,137 deaths out of more than 17,191 COVID-19 cases as of May 19, 2020. Given that some countries have a COVID-19 death rate of 20%, Romania is providing excellent treatment and care for COVID-19 patients.
  6. Romania has plenty of room for new COVID-19 patients. The Romanian health care system has more than enough beds, currently over 29,000 available, for new COVID-19 patients. Having all the necessary resources is critical during a pandemic. These resources are necessary to treat COVID-19 symptoms and keep death rates down. Romanian health care facilities are currently only using about 750 beds. Romania has more than enough space for new COVID-19 patients.
  7. COVID-19 has adversely affected poor Roma families. According to UNICEF, the virus significantly impacts low-income families. This is true, especially for one of Romania’s largest minority groups, the Romas. The effects of the virus have created financial problems for many in the Roma community, who are day laborers. The virus also exacerbates many of the difficulties low-income families face, including health care services, access to education and decreased job opportunities.
  8. Romania established a free health advice hotline. In response to the COVID-19 virus, Romania established a hotline that provides free public health advice. The hotline provides a valid health information source for people who may not have access to the news via the internet or television. Romanians can call the hotline to receive information about COVID-19 tests, mask use and general health information regarding COVID-19.

The Romanian hotline is going to help lower-income communities in Romania, like the Romas. These communities do not have access to medical services or technology, like televisions and computers to receive health care information during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Romanian ordinances, along with the hotline, protect the Romanian people not only from the virus but also the economic issues surrounding a pandemic.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
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

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Romania
Among European Union members, Romania ranks as one of the lowest in terms of life expectancy. Life expectancy can be a complicated issue. It is impacted by many other factors, such as poverty, housing and health care. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Romania will reveal which issues have shaped the current problems in Romania, as well as what can be done to solve them.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Romania

  1. Life expectancy for young people in Romania is the lowest in the European Union. In countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and the U.K., the life expectancy of a young person today is around 85 years. According to the CIA, Romania has a life expectancy of just 75.6 years, giving Romania one of the lowest overall life expectancies in the European Union.
  2. Life expectancy in Romania has had its ups and downs since 1990. Prior to the 1990s, very little research was done on life expectancy in Romania. In the period from 1990-1996, Romania actually experienced a decline in life expectancy of 1.71 years for men and 0.54 years for women. Romania’s life expectancy recovered when this trend reversed in the period from 1996-1998, with an increase in life expectancy of 1.12 years for men and 0.89 years for women. Life expectancy in Romania has been gradually trending upwards since.
  3. Romania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. As of 2018, Romania is among the 10 poorest countries in Europe. The EU has an average GDP per capita of more than $38,000. Meanwhile, Romania’s per capita GDP is only $9,520. Poverty, for obvious reasons, is often inversely correlated with life expectancy.
  4. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Romania. By 2004, the leading cause of death in Romania was cardiovascular diseases which were responsible for 62 percent of all deaths. Romania’s past increases in life expectancy are due partially to a reduction in the rates of heart disease in the late 1990s. This reduction is likely due to a change in diet and reduced obesity rates.
  5. Living conditions in Romania have been steadily improving since the fall of communism. In the past 20 years, the average household income in Romania has increased by more than $2,500, and the unemployment rate has been cut in half. The number of Romanian citizens reported to be living in bad health is now lower than the average for Europe. By 2017, Romanian households had improved access to modern tools and appliances which play a role in increasing living standards. By 2017, 33.7 percent of households owned a personal car, and more than half own computers. Almost every household had a cooking stove, and 56 percent owned a modern refrigerator.
  6. Rural areas have substandard living conditions. In Romania, life expectancy varies significantly between different regions. As is often the case, there is a rural-urban divide. Life expectancies are higher in cities than in the countryside. Urban areas often have access to higher quality medical care, whereas rural regions often have sub-par medicine. Rural areas also have a lower standard of workplace safety. A survey published in 2009 reveals that 64 percent of all workplace accidents take place in rural zones of the country.
  7. Urban regions have higher life expectancies. Bucharest has the highest life expectancy in Romania. The average life expectancy in Romania’s capital is 77.8 years, 2.4 years above the national average. The counties with the next three highest life expectancies are Valcea (77.5 years), Cluj (76.7 years) and Brasov (76.6 years). Each of these counties represents populations that live in urban metropolitan areas.
  8. The Romanian health care system is ranked the worst in Europe. For two consecutive years, Romania’s health care system has been rated the lowest in the European Union in the European Health Consumer Index (EHCI) at 34th. Countries are ranked by quality of care, accessibility and wait times. The study also concluded that Romania’s system was discriminatory towards minority groups such as the Roma, who experience poorer health outcomes on average.
  9. Life expectancy is much worse for minority groups. One of Romania’s largest minority groups is the Romani, or Roma, who represent 3.08 percent of Romania’s population. The Romani people face deep-seated oppression and discrimination which contributes to them being disproportionately impoverished. Among Romani women, maternal mortality rates are 15 times greater than among the rest of the population. An estimated 30 percent of the Romani live in slum-like conditions. The overall life expectancy for the Roma is estimated to be anywhere from five years to 20 years shorter than that of the general population. If life expectancies in Romania are to be improved, then discrimination must cease. The government must make a serious effort to lift disadvantaged minority groups out of dilapidated living conditions.
  10. NGOs have and will continue to play a crucial role in improving life expectancy in Romania. Nonprofits have been very important in improving the lives of Romanians. Groups like CARE and Hearts Across Romania have focused on aiding children, many of whom are abandoned due to poverty. Love Light Romania seeks to combat poverty by promoting access to educational opportunities. Habitat for Humanity has sought to build housing in Romania, to supplement the nation’s insufficient public housing program.

From these 10 facts about life expectancy in Romania, it can be determined that the situation is a mixed bag for Romania. On one hand, life expectancy has shown significant improvement since the fall of communism. On the other, it is clear that Romania still has quite a few social issues that must be corrected if it is to rise to the level of the rest of Europe. Issues such as insufficient health care and discrimination against Roma people still persist, however through government initiatives and continual efforts by nonprofits, these issues can be solved.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Unsplash

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

Romanian orphanages

In January 1990, Daily Mail reporter Bob Graham was one of the first British journalists to visit a Romanian orphanage in Bucharest.  This trip unraveled the troubled history of Romanian orphanages. “Usually, when you enter a room packed with cots filled with children, the expectation is lots of noise, chatter or crying, sometimes even a whimper,” he said in an interview with Public Radio International in 2015. “There was none, even though the children were awake. They lay in their cots, sometimes two to each cot, sometimes three, their eyes staring. Silently. It was eerie, almost sinister.”

“They were inhuman,” he continued, recalling the living conditions of those he saw. “Stalls where children, babies, were treated like farm animals. No, I am wrong — at least the animals felt brave enough to make a noise.”

Journalists like Graham began to expose the nightmarish history of Romanian orphanages in December 1989. Their reports broke the hearts of the international community. As the haunting details of such places began to emerge, so did numerous charities, fundraising activities and adoption efforts.

The impassioned relief effort provided things such as blankets, powdered milk and toys. However, little improvement was actually made in the decade following the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Much of what defined the old, corrupt regime bled into the new government. Consequently, this interrupted any progress and left the abject conditions of orphans unaddressed.

When Emil Constantinescu was elected in 1997, however, a period of greater reform ushered in. Under his government, services were implemented that helped his countries’ parentless, such as establishing a new Child Protection Authority and promoting foster care. Since then, the system has made vast improvements. However, the living conditions of orphans remain problematic in Romania and throughout Eastern Europe to this day.

The ‘Decret’

It all started with a decree.

The last Communist leader of Romania, Nicolae Ceauşescu, took a page out of the 1930s Stalinist dogma and enacted pronatalist laws to fuel his belief that population growth would lead to economic growth. In October 1966, Decree 770 was enacted. It forbade both abortion and contraception for women under 40 with fewer than four children.

Children born during these years are popularly known as decreței. Decreței comes from the Romanian word “decret”, meaning decree. Ceaușescu announced, “The fetus is the property of the entire society … Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity.”

After the decree, birth rates rose significantly from 1967 to 1969 to catastrophic numbers. Coupled with Romania’s poverty, this policy meant that more and more unwanted children were turned over to state orphanages. There, they were subjected to institutionalized neglect, sexual abuse, and indiscriminate injections to ‘control behavior.’

By the end of the 20th century, over 10,000 institutionalized children were living with AIDS due to neglect and failure to sterilize medical instruments. “Children suffered from inadequate food, shelter, clothing, medical care, lack of stimulation or education, and neglect,” a report by nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch stated.

Disabled children suffered even worse conditions and treatment. Many were malnourished, diseased, tied to their own beds or dangerously restrained in their own clothing. When Western psychologists entered the mix in the 1990s, they noted stunning developmental problems in institutionalized orphans. Their traumatic experiences served a tragic experiment, showing what happens to children denied normal human relationships.

Brain Development

The Bucharest Early Intervention Project launched a 12-year study following 136 infants and children who had been abandoned in Romanian institutions. They discovered institutionalized children more slowly acquired language skills. They also lacked problem-solving and reasoning skills, compared to children raised in foster homes. Moreover, the study noted the brains of institutionalized children were smaller and they had lower IQs. Similarly, they had increased rates of psychiatric disorders, particularly emotional disorders like anxiety and depression. Institutionalized children also displayed abnormal social development. This supported the theory of a ‘sensitive period’ of acquisition–the narrow time frame for the development of particular skills to occur.

“For children being raised in any kind of adversity, the sooner you can get them into an adequate caregiving environment, the better their chances are for developing normally,” says Charles Zeanah, a principal BEIP investigator. Unfortunately, adopted Romanian orphans are still suffering in adulthood to this day.

Romanian Orphanages Today

Today, only one-third of Romania’s children are housed in residential homes maintained by the state.  Historically, Romanian orphanages had little to no recourse. Today, there are a few different ways they can receive the tender love and care they deserve.

Many of the problems today can still be traced back to Ceausescu. In aiming to create a race of Romanian worker bees, his policies precipitated the abandonment of thousands of children each year. Because parents could not afford to raise children, the state orphanage system grew. Many parents believed the state could better take care of their children. And unfortunately, such a mentality, especially among the poor, remains today.

The majority of Romanian children in the state system are in foster care. The state pays Romanian foster parents a salary to rear children. There are also ‘family-type’ homes, where five or six children grow up together. In regards to the more problematic, remaining institutional buildings–called placement centers–the government has made a public commitment to close them all by 2020.

Ultimately, many countries in Eastern Europe are fighting to decrease their orphans and orphanages. In Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, the orphanage population has dropped from 11,000 to 2,000 since 2011. In Georgia, the number of state-run orphanages dropped from 50 to two. Additionally, Bulgaria has focused its reforms on children with disabilities, finding family-style care for all in state institutions.

While it was once the region with the highest rate of children in orphanages, Eastern Europe leads the movement to empty them today.

William Cozens
Photo: National Archives of Romania