UNICEF in Romania provides protective equipment to frontline community workers during the pandemic
In rural Romania, community workers in UNICEF program support the most vulnerable in the COVID-19 pandemic. National UNICEF fundraising campaign provides them with personal protective equipment and long term needed support
With hospitals the frontlines of the pandemic fight, community workers in the UNICEF program in the county of Bacău, eastern Romania, one of most poverty-affected regions in the country, shoulder the heavy lifting to flatten the curve of the virus spread. Social workers and community nurses provide the most vulnerable with care and medical aid, thus relieving demand on the healthcare system.
UNICEF in Romania is working with national, regional and local partners to rapidly assess the situation and provide support to children and families in vulnerable communities. It has already mounted a national TV campaign “Saving lives safely” to fundraise, procure and distribute much needed sanitizers, gloves, masks and disinfectants that help keep these professionals safe to continue their work.
UNICEF has already delivered gloves, sanitizers and face masks in over 35 communities in the county of Bacău, like the village of Sărata. There, social worker Mirela Crăciun and two community nurses check daily on the children and families in isolation, the disabled people and the elderly who live alone, and do their groceries and medicine shopping.
They also closely monitor the chronically ill and the pregnant women, especially the young first-time mothers and see that patients under treatment receive their medication and care. For that, they are in close contact with family and specialist doctors, who instruct the nurses and help them decide when a trip to the hospital is absolutely necessary. “We have rescheduled all other medical examinations,” says Crăciun.
The community professionals in Sărata have organized the communication and deliveries for the isolated to observe the social distancing rules. Mayor Irina Argatu regularly accompanies them in the field, ensuring people understand the importance of staying at home and washing their hands. Crăciun says the sanitizers and gloves are “essential and so needed. We need to be safe to intervene and prevent. Many serious cases can generally be prevented, so people would not need to be treated in hospitals.””
“In the context of this pandemic, vulnerable children are exposed to even greater risks, such as family separation, lack of access to medical services, abuse, neglect.”
“For children in disadvantaged communities and their families, the presence of community nurses, health mediators, and social workers is essential. In the context of this pandemic, vulnerable children are exposed to even greater risks, such as family separation, lack of access to medical services, abuse, neglect. That is why frontline professionals urgently need protection and special equipment, which will enable them to perform their work safely for both themselves and the children they help," said Pieter Bult, UNICEF representative in Romania.
In the ten times larger town of Moinești, community nurse Roxana Asăndoaiei and her colleagues take daily field trips as well. They also receive between 200 and 300 calls daily. The community services number is listed in an announcement on the local cable TV network, and printed on food packages distributed to the vulnerable families by the mayoralty.
It has been helpful that doctors can now prescribe medication online directly to the pharmacy. Asăndoaiei and her colleagues can go to the pharmacy for pick up and home delivery.
While Crăciun admits no previous experience compares to the emergency state response, she says “the services are the same we offered in the UNICEF community services program and recorded in the Aurora app, such as inform, counsel, monitor or refer. Now a lot is done on the phone and online. Aurora gathered data on vulnerable children and their families, now we do the same services for the entire community as before the crises,” says Crăciun, whose job is now to also closely update the Public Health authorities on the situation, not just on the disadvantaged families. The mayoralty of Moinești is also working to extend Aurora online platform to the entire town, beyond the initially selected perimeter.
In Romania, where 400 people have died of COVID-19 and over 8,000 have been diagnosed with the disease, UNICEF is in close contact with WHO, national authorities (including the Ministry of Health and the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children and Adoptions - NARPDCA), regional authorities (Directorates-General for Social Assistance and Child Protection, Directorates of Public Health), with the local authorities to closely monitor the situation, as well as with the Romanian National Red Cross Society.
UNICEF has developed and continues to develop and distribute communication materials for children and parents, to help them better protect themselves and their loved ones, to prevent the spread of the virus, and recommendations for parents on how to talk to their children about the current situation, and how to spend this unexpected vacation.