Children of Moldova
There are gradual improvements in almost all indicators of child well-being in Moldova, although with more visible co-existing inequalities.
Most children in Moldova attend primary and secondary schools, at 99 per cent and 96 percent respectively, but preschool education still lags behind. In rural areas only 64 per cent of 3 to 5 year-olds benefit from early childhood learning. Children with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities are frequently excluded or discouraged from formal schooling.
Child mortality rates are low. According to official statistics, the under-five mortality rate is 11.9 and the infant mortality rate is 9.4 per 1,000 live births. Moldova’s health system is constantly developing, with a nation-wide health insurance scheme in place and a growing primary health care sector. Advances have been made in the coverage of antenatal care and immunization, reaching the large majority of pregnant women and young children. There are, however, shortages of qualified medical staff in rural areas, and many families have to pay for medicines out of pocket, which is prohibitive for the poor.
Progress in other areas of child survival requires ongoing attention. Chronic malnutrition or stunting affects 6 per cent of children under 5 and the poorest children are four times more likely to be stunted than the wealthiest ones. HIV remains a concern in Moldova, especially as only a third of young people know the main modes of HIV transmission and ways to prevent infection.
‘Parent drain’ is a major feature of family life in Moldova. One in five children has one or both biological parents working abroad, with the middle class being the most affected.Children left behind end up being cared for by their grandparents, extended family members or, in some cases, live on their own. Migration of a parent or caregiver has both positive and negative effects - the transfer of remittances may provide better living conditions for the children left behind, yet the absence of parents is emotionally challenging and may lead to lack of care and the increased likelihood of risky behaviour.
Putting children into residential care, especially children from poor families and children with disabilities, was a common practice in the past. This is rapidly changing, and the country has made great progress in reforming the system. The number of institutionalized children has halved between 2007 and 2013 and there has been an increase in the use of family-based alternatives such as foster care.
Poverty is a predominantly rural phenomenon, where it is four times higher than in urban areas. It also disproportionately affects larger families. Families with three or more children remain the most vulnerable to poverty – the rate for this category is 35 per cent compared to 10 per cent for families with one child. The 2012 Moldova Multiple Indicator Cluster survey (MICS) revealed the extent to which vulnerable groups are facing other deprivations. In rural areas, only 81 per cent of people use safe sources of drinking water, compared to 96 per cent in urban areas.
The access to sanitation is even worse – only 61 per cent of rural household members use adequate sanitation as opposed to 85 per cent in urban areas. Children from the Roma communities and children with disabilities are among the most vulnerable, experiencing social exclusion and poor access to basic services. Growing up in Moldova still carries risks of violence and abuse.
Children are exposed to high levels of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as domestic violence and harsh discipline. Three quarters of children between the ages of 2 and 14 have experienced violent disciplining methods; about half have been hit or beaten by their parents as punishment. Children who come into contact with the law, as victims or as suspects, may be treated harshly by law enforcement officials. The government, however, is making efforts to better protect children through improved policies and greater awareness around violence against children. The number of children in detention has declined dramatically and alternatives to detention are increasingly used.
Despite the challenges, great progress has been made, and the country’s commitment to protect and promote the rights of all children is a strong driver for future interventions. Moldova is the only country that has a distinct chapter on child rights in its Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). This should further ensure that government-led reforms incorporate protection and promotion of the rights of all children.
*excluding Transnistrian region, except where indicated
I Source: National Bureau of Statistic, 2012 Moldova MICS
II Source: Ministry of Health, National Bureau of Statistics,TransMonEE
III Source: 2012 Moldova MICS
IV Source: GARP Progress Report on HIV/SIDA
V Source: National Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Education
VI Source: TransMonEE, National Bureau of Statistics