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

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

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Romania

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

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

– Marissa Field

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure Projects in Romania
Perhaps the most well-known motoring experts and critics, the host of the BBC’s Top Gear, named Romania’s Transfagarasan Highway the best road in the world in season 14, episode 1. In general, infrastructure has not been Romania’s strong suit; however, both Romanian politicians and the European Union alike see large infrastructure projects in Romania as the key to Romania‘s social and economic future. There are plans to build roads, railways, ports and a variety of buildings to support the health and safety of Romania.

Unfinished Business

Mismanagement has always been a problem for a post-communist Romania. In 2003, the country began construction on what was supposed to be a nation-changing Autostrada Transilvania highway project that would have stretched from Brasov to Oradea, near the Hungary border, spanning the length of the nation. Construction was canceled in 2013 after high costs and poor management forced the government to abandon the project.

In 2014, the European Union guaranteed 9.5 billion Euros for infrastructure projects in Romania through 2020. Due to shifting government policies and elections in Romania, the EU has had a difficult time effectively following through with the project. Unfortunately, the initial plans went nowhere.

New Commitments to Infrastructure

In 2018, the President of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) met with the President of Romania, giving the world its vote of confidence when it was announced that the EBRD would increase their commitment in funding infrastructure projects in Romania.

Road projects are important. Only 4.3 percent of roads in Romania are highways. To remedy this Romania is planning two major highway expansions. In 2019, Romania will begin planning a 51-kilometer highway called the Bucharest Belt. The Craiova-Pitesti Expressway is the second highway for which Romania has begun to plan and accept bids. It will be 121 kilometers in length and is projected to cost nearly 820 million Euros.

Railways are another important way to move goods and people through and around the country. The Romanian government has big plans for the rehabilitation and upgrading of its rail system. There are 58 investment projects underway to improve Romania’s railway system at an estimated cost of 2.8 billion Euros.

Other Projects in Place

Infrastructure projects in Romania are not only dedicated to roadworks. The Danube river is one of the most important rivers in European history. In Ancient History, it served as the border of the Roman Empire, from which Romania gets its namesake. The Danube has served as a major artery for trade, bordering 20 countries starting in Germany and ending in Romania and Ukraine at the Black Sea. The Romanian government plans to upgrade the Port of Constanta from 2020 to 2025. Improvements to the piers are estimated to cost $991 million dollars.

Other improvements underway are plans to upgrade and expand Romania’s sewage and water treatment systems. The EBRD and the Romanian government have earmarked 2.2 million Euros for the project. The project will help provide more clean water and better water waste removal to the people of Romania. The EBRD will not only provide money but will also provide expertise in the planning process so that the funds are used most efficiently.

It will not be a quick process. Romania has many years of improvement ahead of it. It will be an expensive and long-term task. Hopefully, the commitment of those involved will not falter like earlier projects but will use future roadblocks as opportunities to grow as they work together.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Improving Healthcare in Romania
According to the Euro Health Consumer index, Romania has ranked last in the EU for the past two years regarding healthcare. The country has one of the EU’s highest poverty rates at 19.8 percent; nearly double the EU’s overall poverty rate. Because of the physical and mental restrictions sickness places on a community, healthcare is a basic necessity for lifting people out of poverty. Despite the country’s bleak rankings, improving healthcare in Romania is becoming a reality as foreign assistance and determined locals work toward developing a healthier population and fighting poverty.

Hardships Cause Doctors to Leave

Romania’s population of close to 20 million people has struggled through major changes and hardships over the past few decades. The country transferred from communist control into a constitutional republic and struggled through a financial crisis in 2008. The financial crisis rendered Romania a needy recipient of a $24 billion bailout given through the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Through these challenging times, many doctors began leaving Romania in search of higher-quality facilities, supplies, hours and pay. This loss of doctors and other medical professionals is sometimes referred to as a brain drain or a medical exodus. Since 2011, the number of family doctors in Romania decreased by 25 percent. Although thousands of doctors and nurses have left Romania, there is still hope on the horizon.

Efforts to Improve Healthcare

Through foreign aid and local perseverance, efforts are underway for improving healthcare in Romania. Several small hospitals in desperate need of infrastructural repairs and supplies are now undergoing renovation. For example, Victor Babes Infectious Diseases Hospital in the city of Timisoara is now undergoing major renovations to improve issues such as rusty furniture, peeling paint and a lack of basic supplies like curtains. Better-equipped medical facilities are also undergoing improvements. Ponderas Hospital in Bucharest is implementing two surgical robots that increase surgical maneuverability and reduce complications.

A centralization effort of improvements is also underway. Affidea and Hiperdia, two large diagnostic imaging companies with over 37 years of combined experience in Romania, merged in 2017. While some fear such a merger omits beneficial competition, others are hopeful that the merger will increase the quality and efficiency of healthcare in Romania. Affidea is active in at least 12 countries in Europe and has more than 5,000 employees.

Affidea’s manager for Romania, Radu Gorduza, declares the merger will bring a golden standard to Romania, which he hopes will inspire others in Romania’s healthcare system. He exhibits a very optimistic view of the situation, saying, “There is so much room for improvement here.” Plans are underway for major renovations and remodeling of waiting rooms to be more patient-friendly, as well as ensuring that employees have empathetic qualities and “soft skills.” Gorduza states that the merger will also improve Romania’s information technology infrastructure by providing remote access to imaging services through telemedicine.

The Implementation of Telemedicine

Telemedicine implementation is an important part of improving healthcare in Romania; half of Romania’s population lives in rural areas, but nearly all of the country’s hospitals are located in urban areas. Remote mountains and the Danube Delta present difficult terrain to travel for many people, and telemedicine is helping to connect doctors with people in these areas without necessitating travel. The EU funded the Romanian government with $19 million for implementing a telemedicine network for people in rural areas; the network was completed at the end of 2015.

Steps are also being taken to incentivize doctors and other medical professionals to stay in Romania rather than joining the exodus of thousands of others seeking better pay and working conditions elsewhere. The incentives include better benefits, higher salaries and reimbursement for participating in telemedicine.

Overall, while healthcare improvements are in the early stages of development in Romania due to the lasting effects of a communist dictatorship and a financial crisis, there are many reasons for Romanians and their allies to be optimistic about the future. Through foreign assistance and local participation, healthcare in Romania is slowly but steadily improving.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr