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Moldova, Republic of

Moldovan children struggle to cope with their parents’ economic migration

© UNICEF Moldova/2007/Sarbu
Because of poor economic conditions, the parents of these six Moldovan children migrated to try to find work, leaving them behind with their grandmother.

By Antonina Sarbu

CHISINAU, Moldova, 8 May 2007 – Horodiste is a small village in north Moldova with a population of about 1,500. No one knows the exact number because most of the adult inhabitants have left to look for work abroad.

Due to economic migration such as this, at least 29 per cent of Moldovan children live without one or both parents, and the number is increasing.

Five years ago, builder Valeriu Anton went to work in Moscow, Russia. His wife Lilia recently joined him to seek employment. The parents left six children behind with their grandmother Lidia, but they haven’t yet been able to send any money home.

A grandmother’s struggle

Lidia has a monthly pension of 365 lei ($30), which she spends on the children. The state provides 50 lei ($6) per month for each child, but this is not enough even to buy food.

“We haven’t seen butter for long time. I usually cook potatoes and porridge,” says Lidia. “Sometimes the children ask me to buy an ice cream or a cookie to share. Even this little pleasure I cannot afford.”

The eldest sister, Marina, 16, describes what she would like the most. “Some shoes,” she says. “We have only two pairs of shoes for all of us.” Marina studies hard and wants to be a technician or a cook when she finishes school.

© UNICEF Moldova/2007/Sarbu
The Anton family children with their grandmother, Lidia.

Her sister Cristina, 14, sings in church on Sundays. Alexandra, who is in the fifth grade, studies diligently. Valeria, 11, paints and makes bouquets of wild flowers. Iuliana, 5, is fortunate to attend kindergarten. “The food is better there and they have butter,” says her grandmother.

Nicusor is the youngest of all, at only three and a half, and he always asks about his father. When he hears the front gate opening or the dog barking, he runs to the door hoping to meet his father there.

Long-term effects on children

“The ones who suffer most, with or without money, are the children,” says UNICEF Project Officer for Child Rights Radu Danii. “Though many of them have better toys and clothes because their parents are working abroad, consumer goods cannot replace parental support, which is key in the development of children. And there are families like the Antons for whom economic migration does not even bring wealth.”

Though remittances sent by Moldovans working abroad are a positive outcome of migration – because they can help family members lead better lives back home – the longer-term effects are not yet fully understood.

A 2006 UNICEF-supported study on children left by migrating parents showed that, over time, they distance themselves from their parents and are deeply affected emotionally by the lack of support and communication. Young children in particular may fail to develop social skills and may relate less effectively to their peers.

Support for vulnerable families

In order to better support children whose parents have migrated, the Government of Moldova and UNICEF are creating a national network of community social workers who will help families gain access to services they need.

These social workers will also explain to families the benefits, institutions and legal assistance available to the most vulnerable families in various communities.

There is little question that families like the Antons need this kind of support. Asked whether she tells her grandchildren fairy tales, Lidia offers a sombre reply. “The difficulties of life have stolen my fairy tales,” she says. “I am so tired, I can’t tell any fairy tales.”



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