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UNICEF Romania in action

UNICEF hits back at Romania’s summertime scourge

Flooding – Romania’s seemingly annual summertime scourge – returned with a vengeance in late July, leaving destruction and misery in its wake. As has often been the case, the worst hit areas of the country were in the northeastern counties, Bacău, Botoşani, Iaşi, Maramureş, Neamţ and Suceava, some of which form Romania’s northern border with Ukraine, which was also badly hit.


© Picture: Agerpres _ 2638872
On the ground, an idea of the destruction

Statistics do not reflect the full extent of the misery of any disaster. Nevertheless it was recorded that five people lost their lives in the floods, including a 30-yearold mother and son and another youngster who perished in a landslide after taking refuge in a house, in Maramureş. More than 27,000 people had to be temporarily evacuated from their homes; 100 villages were left without electricity, and nearly 6,000 houses required reconstruction, consolidation or repairs. In the midst of the flooding Romania’s President Traian Băsescu warned that an ecological disaster could occur if lakes containing potentially lethal mining waste were allowed to overspill.While that situation was averted, more than 1,000 kilometres of roads were damaged and 55,000 hectares of agricultural land were affected.

Shortly after the telethon organised by Realitatea TV and UNICEF, Edmond McLoughney, UNICEF Representative andVoica Pop, UNICEF Programme Specialist were invited to join Interior Minister, Cristian David to fly over the affected areas – particularly over the worst hit Botoşani and Suceava counties – and survey the scene from the air, and meet with local authorities and flood victims. It was decided that as food, mattresses and temporary shelter were being provided by the government and other donors, UNICEF would focus on the specific needs of children, who were, at that time, still on school holidays.


© Picture: UNICEF Romania
At UNICEF headquarters in Bucharest, volunteers from Orange
assemble relief packages for children.


Of his monitoring visit to Romania’s northeast, Edmond McLoughney would later recall: “I visited villages in the affected areas and I was struck by the situation of the
children.The world they had known and had felt safe in collapsed around them in just a few minutes.They have no clothes, no toys, they don’t have anything left. It is
now that we need to help them rebuild their universe and regain belief that everything will be alright again.”
On Saturday, 9th August, just three days after the aerial reconnaissance, UNICEF began the first of its four coordinated deliveries of relief packages to people in stricken areas.The floods had left people with nothing, and many had been forced from their homes and were housed in temporary shelter. As soon as UNICEF staff together with UN and Orange volunteers were able to pack over 1,000 kits comprising emergency supplies such as personal hygiene items, clothing, shoes and toys, they were distributed in the most affected communities.The first villages to receive these packages were Săuceşti, Buhoci,Tamaşi and Letea Veche in Bacşu and Tămăşeni in Neamţ.Teams of gendarmes from the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform also assisted with the distribution of the supplies, as they would throughout the relief campaign.


© Picture: UNICEF Romania
Children in flood-hit areas walk away with UNICEF packages.

The following week, on 14th and 15th August, a second tranche of emergency supplies was delivered to more than 1,000 children in Doljeşti, Ion Creangă, Gădinşi, Sagna and Horia in Neamţ and to Rădăuţi Prut and Rediu in Botoşani.The packages comprised personal hygiene and sanitary items and backpacks with toys and clothing (pyjamas, t-shirts, shorts, track suits) each customised for their age, and the 750 children who did not receive the backpacks the previous week would receive them then.The following week a third delivery of emergency supplies were delivered to children, this time in 21 communities throughout Maramureş, Iaşi and Suceava; they also received backpacks with personal hygiene and sanitary items, clothing and shoes. UNICEF New Zealand Goodwill Ambassadors Gareth and Joanne Morgan, who were then in Romania, helped distribute supplies to children in Iaşi county. Again, delivery and distribution was carried out with the support of the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform which provided transportation and teams of gendarmes to help in assembling and distributing the supplies to children.Volunteers from the Romanian Foundation for Children, Community and Family also helped to assemble the packages.

Children from Răchiţeni and Valea Seacă in Iaşi were transported out of the area to attend holiday camps, an initiative of the National Agency forYouth in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Research andYouth, and by the Close ToYou foundation. Each child attending the camps received a UNICEF backpack containing school supplies.


© Picture: UNICEF Romania
More than 4,500 children began school properly equipped.

More than 4,500 children from the six affected counties began the school year with school supplies received from UNICEF, which delivered packs containing supplies for children in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and high schools.The packs contained notebooks, pencils, coloured pencils, pens and ink, erasers, rulers, geometry kits, watercolour paints and brushes, plasticine, story books and games. A further recovery stage involving specific cases where social assistance and psychological support is required, is ongoing.

Romania’s 2008 floods will remain a bitter experience in the memories of all who were affected.Yet there is little doubt that had it not been for the swift action of the relief effort spearheaded by Romania’s Ministry for Interior and Administrative Reform, and the fundraising efforts organised by Realitatea TV and UNICEF, the situation could have been much worse.The images on these pages reflect some parts of the damage and the responding relief effort.

 

 
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