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In the Module Camp: The Buruiana Family

© UNICEF Romania/Raluca Manta
Florentina is the most outgoing pupil in her class. She lost all her notebooks in the floods.

by Iana Bejaniyska, UNICEF Consultant

The floods in northeast Romania this summer took the lives of twenty-three people. In Dorohoi alone, one of the most economically disadvantaged towns in the area, 305 houses were completely destroyed by the raging water and 349 have been seriously damaged.

The Buruiana family is among those left without a home. The local government evacuated them to a temporary compound of modular houses at the end of June. There are a hundred of these modules which could be mistaken for shipping containers. Two hundred and twenty displaced individuals inhabit them. Out of that number seventy-four are children. The government has promised to resettle the families in decent new homes but progress is slow. Bitter complaints echo around the camp.
The six Buruiana children found the heat in the modules almost unbearable in August. They were like ovens. Now the cold weather is fast approaching but the families are still there. The natural disaster, the loss of their home, all their belongings perished, young Alberto’s brush with death, the extreme summer heat, the cramped conditions in the module camp: these are all hardships that very few children in Europe have to endure. But for Elizabeta, 2; Costel, 5; Florentina, 8; Ana Maria, 10; Alberto, 14 and Mihaela, 16, these have been everyday reality since the heavy rain devastated the region last June. Nevertheless, all the Buruiana children are smiling for the camera, chatting with the interviewers and making ambitious plans for the future.

Eight-year-old Florentina is the most outgoing. She tells how she enjoys being at school and that she would like to become a teacher when she grows up. Life is far-from-comfortable in the module housing but Florentina diligently does her homework and likes to discuss what she has learned in class that day. She recalls with sadness how the flood destroyed her school books. They became sodden, the ink ran, some of the pages turned to pulp, others were dragged away by the water. When the weather improved, Florentina tried to dry whatever was left of her exercise and text books in the sun but the pages curled in the heat and she could barely make out any of the words. She is very grateful to the UNICEF team for providing her and her siblings with a new set of school stationery. It seems this is all she needs to make her happy.

Buruiana family
© UNICEF Romania/ Raluca Manta
There is still hope for Buruiana family and you can see that in the face of its youngest member

Her fourteen-year-old brother, Alberto, has a different set of needs. He had a narrow escape from death when he tried to rescue his cousin from the flash floods as houses and trees were collapsing around them. The cousin died, Alberto survived, but the ordeal has left him with deep psychological scars. UNICEF Romania has despatched twelve professional teams to the affected areas, including psychologists and social workers, to help families and children deal with the trauma caused by the disaster.  Offers by other donors to sponsor children to spend time in summer camps on the Black Sea were refused by parents ‘who don’t want to see and hear about water anymore’.

In the aftermath of the floods, Alberto contracted chicken pox when an epidemic broke out in the module camp. The Romanian Ministry of Health was quick to administer anti-tetanus and anti-hepatitis A vaccines, and distribute anti-diarrhoea and anti-flu medicine among the afflicted communities. Despite government efforts, there has been a shortage of drugs in local hospitals. UNICEF has donated thousands of dollars worth of children’s medication to Dorohoi Municipal Hospital to ensure Alberto and other children like him in the town can recover quickly. The money was made available through the Digul Speranţei (Dam of Hope) joint fundraising initiative by UNICEF and Realitatea TV.

The discomfort and inadequacy of their temporary accommodation notwithstanding, the Buruiana family are now looking forward to life in a secure new home. Alberto is healthy again and the four children who go to school are equipped with all they need to learn well. They are in a position to start rebuilding their universe. 



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