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

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.

Solutions

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

Human Trafficking in Romania
Human trafficking is a highly profitable business and on the rise in Romania. Human trafficking is a complex phenomenon and a few factors might explain why it is so prevalent in Romania including poverty, corruption, social inequality, uneven development, harmful traditional and cultural practices. For example, Romania has a shame-based culture so victims often find it difficult to return home. Additionally, Romania suffers from civil unrest and a lack of political will to end human trafficking in Romania.

The 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the Romanian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” and is on the Tier 2- Watch List for the second consecutive year, along with Ireland. For example, in comparison to the previous report, Romania did not increase its efforts to reduce human trafficking. Moreover, authorities investigated, prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers, and complicity in trafficking persisted without punishment, especially in the case of officials who exploited minors in government-run facilities.

As a response to the report, Adrian Zuckerman, the U.S. ambassador to Romania, stated that the report is correct. Gangs trafficked people knowing that they probably will get away with it. Zuckerman urged the parliament to start working with the government to create the necessary legislation to end human trafficking in Romania.

Following negative reports from both the U.S., the Romanian parliament published a decision on November 24, 2020, which includes the following recommendations to the government:

  • Raising the minimum sentence for traffickers
  • Mitigating the trial period
  • Accelerating the process of criminal investigations
  • Making a sexual act with a minor aged 15 or under a felony
  • Including child disappearances and human trafficking in the country’s National Strategy
  • Modifying the legislation to properly fund nonprofit organizations working to reduce human trafficking in Romania

Modern-Day Slavery in Romania

The Global Slavery Index shows that Romania, with 86,000 trafficking victims, has one of the highest rates of modern-day slavery in Eastern Europe and most victims experience sexual exploitation. However, modern-day slavery is common in the following sectors including agriculture, construction, car-washing and housekeeping. Human trafficking in Romania strongly intertwines with migration and encompasses the following activities including prostitution, begging, theft, forced labor and organ cropping. It is especially worrisome that about 50% of the trafficked persons are minors who undergo sexual exploitation, end up in forced labor or have their organs harvested.

Victims of human trafficking in Romania fall into it through numerous means. Sometimes, traffickers will kidnap them or their parents will sell them. At other times, traffickers will recruit them through the “lover boy method” or “a sham marriage.” Altogether, it is a highly vicious circle because there is rarely a way out, and it can sometimes involve multiple generations from mother to daughter. Additionally, gangs may approach low-income families or the victim and charge extremely high-interest rates on the loan they provided for transportation costs and housing after luring their victims.

Trafficking to the UK

Trafficking victims from Romania frequently undergo exploitation in the United Kingdom. In fact, around three-quarters of women trafficked to the U.K. come from Romania and the majority end up in the sex trade.

Begging is also a highly profitable business, as some children can earn £300 a day. According to police reports, gangs value one child at £100,000 a year. Gangs sell the best performing children to other gangs, and virtually all the money makes its way back to Romania, in the case that the traffickers decide to move back to the country.

According to the BBC documentary “Inside Out,” Romania is posing one of the biggest trafficking threat to the U.K. However, it also determined that the British authorities are doing less than their Romanian counterparts in the fight against human trafficking.

Reaching Out Romania and Other NGOs

The main nonprofit organizations fighting human trafficking in Romania are Reaching Out Romania, Eliberare and Antitrafic. Iana Matei is the founder of the shelter Reaching Out Romania which has assisted around 470 victims, mostly Romanians, since 1998. About 54.5% of rescued victims enrolled in further education, nine cases went to court, four persons gave no statement to the police, two returned to prostitution and eight people are still in the program.

Eliberare is an organization that has fought human trafficking quite successfully since 2013. It has accomplished this through awareness campaigns, prevention training, restoration assistance and lobbying events. Meanwhile, Antitrafic works to eliminate human trafficking in Romania and receives co-funding from the European Commission.

In order to end human trafficking in Romania, it is critical that governments and anti-trafficking actors work holistically and across borders. Given that human trafficking is a transnational crime, an integrated and supranational structure could be the best way to reduce it.

– Maria Rusu
Photo: Flickr

Combat Poverty in RomaniaIn an effort to combat the nation’s longstanding battle with poverty, the Romanian Government passed 47 measures in 2015/16 to combat poverty in Romania through to 2020.

Poverty in Romania

At the time these measures passed into law, 40.2% of Romanian people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Furthermore, absolute poverty in Romania increased from 23.4% in 2008 to 27.7% in 2012. Low educational attainment, intergenerational transmission of poverty and lack of inter-regional mobility all contribute to the integral causes of poverty in Romania.

However, the Romanian government set a substantial and significant new precedent on how the nation combats poverty by adopting The National Strategy and Strategic Action Plan on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction for 2015-2020. These measures hope to reduce the many causes of poverty in Romania.

Key Measures:

  • Increasing employment rate through labor market activation programs
  • Increasing financial support for low-income individuals
  • Improving social inclusion of marginalized communities
  • Improving the functionality of social services
  • Reducing school drop-out rates
  • Scaling-up of national health programs
  • Integrating social assistance benefits with social services, employment services and other public services.

These measures were an encouraging shift in political focus that revolved around social benefits and a more community-based and integrated approach that generated widespread support. The World Bank supports these measures, commenting that these measures will strongly contribute to narrowing poverty gaps in the country.

Impact of Poverty Reduction Strategy

Since the adoption of these measures, monthly income per person increased by 10% between 2016 and 2017 and by 16% between 2017 and 2018, in part due to the increases in public-sector wages and improved minimum wages and tax cuts. As a result, poverty rates fell from 28.4% in 2014 to 15.8% in 2017.

Currently, the employment rate at 68.8% is approaching the EU 2020 target and is just below the EU average of 72.2%. Additionally, the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the EU at 4.9%.

Implementation Delays Cause Concern

Although clear steps toward improving Romania’s struggle with poverty have emerged, these measures have received criticism as expectations have determined that many measures could have delayed or minimal results. These concerns were further exacerbated in 2017 when a change in government occurred. The political change delayed implementation and altered the original plan, putting full implementation in jeopardy.

In addition, more legislation is necessary to address the growing condition of the Roma minority group residing in Romania. A whole 78% of Roma are at risk of poverty compared to 35% for non-Roma citizens. Furthermore, 84% of Roma households do not have access to a water source, sewage or electricity. To successfully combat poverty in Romania, the Roma need to be prioritized.

Poverty Reduction Progress

While no single piece of legislation will be the end all be all to combat poverty in Romania, the anti-poverty measures passed in 2015/2016 have shown that a top-down, legislation-focused approach to fighting poverty can lead to progress, poverty reduction and improved social inclusion.

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

reaching out romaniaIn Romanian, ‘Lavandelina’ means comfort or soothing. The definition is quite fitting for one small NGO that has utilized selling lavender-based essential oils to raise funds for its mission to fight sex trafficking. Since it opened in 1999, Reaching Out Romania has provided psychological, medical and legal assistance to more than 470 victims of sex trafficking. 

Reaching Out Romania

The organization was founded by Iana Matei, a trained psychologist who was approached by authorities and asked to intervene when three young girls were rescued from a trafficking situation. The girls told Matei that they had been sold by a gypsy and then sent out on the streets. Matei was shocked to learn that there were no organizations in Romania to fight the illicit sex trafficking industry and decided to start her own.

Sex Trafficking Rings

According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the majority of human trafficking victims detected in Europe have come from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. Romania is one of the countries with the highest levels of sex trafficking reported. Many of the women pulled into the industry come from poor households and have limited options to earn an income.

Most of the girls who end up staying with Matei have returned from Italy or Spain, which are the two main destinations for young Romanians who fall victim to prostitution rings.

Lavender Farming for Essential Oils

As more young women sought refuge at Reaching Out Romania, Matei had to think of a way to fund more housing and secure medical coverage for the girls. When a 15-acre parcel of land was donated to the organization, Matei was initially unsure what to make of it. She met with Creative Nova, a design thinking agency, that helped Reaching Out Romania create a business plan. Its idea was simple: plant lavender and make essential oils to sell.

Over the last few years, the market for essential oils has been on the rise. Reports indicate that the U.S. essential oil market will expand at an annual growth rate of 9% through 2024. Recent preferences for alternative medicine and reports on the therapeutic benefits of essential oils have triggered the growing demand. The timing was right for Reaching Out Romania as few farmers were planting lavender yet the demand for essential oils was on the increase.

In addition to raising funds, the girls at Reaching Out Romania are encouraged to secure paid work in order to secure their independent futures. Roughly 30% of the victims come from rural areas so the organization tries to assist them in searching for a job in the agricultural field. The lavender fields were a perfect starting place. Over the summer, many of the girls staying at Reaching Out Romania visit the lavender farm to learn from experts and receive training in farming.

Addressing Human Trafficking in Romania

Matei and her organization, Reaching Out Romania, have received multiple recognition awards. The lavender farm proves mutually beneficial as a source of employment for the girls and a source of funding for the organization.

– Miska Salemann
Photo: Unsplash

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