Leaving Moldova for Romania we soon arrived in Iasi (pronounced Yash) where UNICEF had organised a couple of field visits for us. They’re always a highlight of these motorcycle trips and you get a unique perspective on the country you’re passing through. In this case our organised programme was interrupted because the area had suffered bad flooding in late July with many homes swept away by swollen rivers and a few people lost their lives in the process. So the Romanian government, UNICEF, the EU Emergency Response Unit, the Red Cross and some other NGO’s had responded to the crisis. We visited one of the affected villages with UNICEF who were delivering relief supplies. Though it was two weeks after the disaster, the sun was shining and the countryside looked a picture, you could see where the rivers had vented their anger.
Second visit was to a Baby Friendly maternity hospital where the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF have instigated their breast-feeding programme – a programme based on empirical results that demonstrate benefits to both mother and child from this course – as opposed to feeding formula. Romania, with its recent terrible history of child neglect, orphans and abuse, has understandably had a very low rate of breastfeeding. Under the communist regime mothers were hurried back to the factory – being production worlers first, parents second. So the education programme has had a challenge but infant mortality rates, child abandonment rates and the birthrate itself are all on the improve as the programmes have kicked in and the economic welfare of the people has risen.
In fact the average maternity hospital stay in Romania is now 4 days and rising which casts a shadow over the trend in New Zealand where it continues to fall as budget priorities rank maternity care a lower priority than previously. Indeed as mothers continue to be kicked out of hospitals in New Zealand it won’t be long before WHO and UNICEF have to intervene in the New Zealand scene.