Located at the merging point of central and southeastern Europe, Romania has the seventh-largest population in the EU. However, declining agricultural production and disparities between rural and urban populations have left many Romanians vulnerable to hunger. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Romania:
- Hunger in Romania is linked to poverty, with 13.8 percent of the population living in absolute poverty. This is an improvement, however, as the poverty rate was 35.9 percent in 2000.
- The Romanian economy has been generally improving since the collapse of the Communist government in 1989. Economic reforms in the early 2000s and Romania’s entry into the EU in 2007 have led to an improving economic outlook.
- Poverty rates remain high in rural areas. Approximately 29.6 percent of Romanians in rural areas live in poverty, compared to 9.6 percent in urban areas.
- Poverty disproportionately affects single people, single-parent families, families with three or more children, and single people over 65. Roma populations are affected the most, with 58 percent living in poverty.
- Romania has an extensive welfare system in order to assist those in poverty. Roughly half the working population receives some kind of welfare, primarily for assistance with heating, electricity, and food.
- Hunger in Romania has an impact on children’s physical development. Approximately eight percent of Romanian children under the age of five are stunted. This is a lower rate than Russia, however, it is a higher rate than the Czech Republic and Yugoslavia.
- Homelessness also increases vulnerability to hunger in Romania. Approximately 5,000 people live on the streets in Bucharest alone, the majority of whom rely on soup kitchens and shelters for meals.
- Agriculture makes up a significant part of Romania’s economy, however, it has declined in recent years due to infrastructure and environmental challenges. While demand for agricultural products has risen, the challenge of getting goods to the markets has led to a decline.
- In order to combat agricultural decline, organizations, such as Heifer International, work to help link farmers with markets that are in need of their products, by providing transportation and networking opportunities.
- While Romanian schools do not provide free lunches, organizations like the Red Cross contribute meals as an incentive to keep kids in school and to provide them with the nourishment they need to succeed.
While hunger in Romania has declined in certain areas, many Romanians remain susceptible. Increasing programs targeting those who live in rural areas could help reduce hunger in Romania across the board.
– Alexi Worley