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Moldova, Republic of

Protecting vulnerable children growing up without parents

© UNICEF Moldova/2005/Nybo
An elderly grandmother in Chisinau, Moldova, looks after her grandchildren, whose parents left the country and were never heard from again. She benefits from UNICEF programmes, which help keep families together and children out of institutions.

By Thomas Nybo

CHISINAU, Moldova, 27 September 2005 – In Moldova it is estimated that one out of every seven adults have left the country in search of work elsewhere. For many of the children they’ve left behind, a faded photograph pinned to a wall is the only reminder children have of their parents. The day their parents left – promising them a better future – was often the last time they saw or heard of them.

Clad in knit caps against the cold, three sisters from one family lean next to their grandmother, who has been taking care of them since their mother left two years ago.  It’s been even longer since they've seen their father, a violent alcoholic who often beat the girls and refused to help with their upbringing. His physical abuse affected their health, their ability to learn, and even their willingness to go to school.

Their father walked out of the house and traveled to Russia seven years ago. He hasn't been heard from since. While that brought an end to the violence in their lives, it brought them face to face with the harsh reality of living through each day. Lacking electricity, the girls stumbled around in the dark and read by candles and lamplight. Even worse, they had to bundle up against the cold in an unheated home all winter long.

The sisters’ elderly grandmother scrambled to pay for school uniforms and books, as she knew that without education her grandchildren would face an even bleaker future. She was on the verge of sending her four grandchildren to a state-run orphanage when UNICEF intervention turned things around.

Countless children in Moldova find themselves in a similar situation, left behind with friends and relatives while their parents search for work. Most often the children of these absent parents run a high risk of being abandoned again, this time to an institution when their surrogate caretakers’ scant resources have run out.

Giovanna Barberis is UNICEF’s Representative in Moldova. She says, "Our main areas of intervention are really very much related to the establishment of a proper protective environment for children, especially for those children that are more at risk, children that have been exposed to abuse, to neglect, to exploitation, children that are living in residential care, children that are living without the care of their own parents. And this means basically to support the government in setting up a proper legislative framework and to help them establish a proper network of social services that can support families at risk and vulnerable families."

UNICEF has been working with the government to establish a proper network of social services to maintain family unity and prevent children being institutionalized. In the case of this family, UNICEF helped the grandmother to get in touch with relevant social services so that she acquired legal guardianship of the children, and the funds from the government that will help keep her family united.




27 September 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on Moldova’s children growing up without the caring of their parents.

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View OneMinutesJr films from CEE/CIS

These films are the product of a UNICEF supported film workshop for young people in Eastern Europe in May 2005. The young filmmakers produced 18 OneMinutesJr films (theoneminutesjr.org). These are just some of the OneMinutesJr Awards (November 2005 in Amsterdam, NL).

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