The universal language of motherhood
UNICEF in Romania and Independent Midwives Association support Ukrainian refugee mothers by offering counselling in the first months after childbirth.
Almost 1,400 refugee mothers and their children have benefited from health services offered through the partnership between UNICEF in Romania and the Independent Midwives Association.
Olena gave birth a few weeks ago to a healthy baby girl, but she still has many anxieties and questions. It takes a village to raise a child, the saying goes. But Olena's community is far away in Ukraine, and now she is living in Romania where everything seems harder to understand and anxiety is increasing.
She tries to remember everything from when she first gave birth, 16 years ago in Ukraine, but it's been a long time. Olena has a lot of questions about breastfeeding and how to best take care of her baby. Romanian midwife Livia Tobosaru came to support her, explaining everything calmly and patiently.
Olena's face lit up when Livia taught her how to give her baby a gentle massage to soothe her. Olena is curious, and at the same time she does not want to miss out on what Livia is explaining.
Over 100 children were vaccinated against measles, 200 parents received breastfeeding counseling and around 2,200 adolescents received information on gender-based violence prevention and reproductive health or participated in different activities.
Inna, a translator from Ukraine, also joins them. She always accompanies the midwives in the field to help the refugee mothers understand all the advice and instructions they receive. "After I got help here in Romania, I decided to get involved in this kind of projects and offer my support too," she says.
Inna is a mother herself and she understands the emotions other mothers go through. She has three boys. Two are with her in Romania and the eldest is with his father in Ukraine. Now living in Bucharest, Inna has found a job that allows her to offer support for the refugee women when they go to the doctor or accompany their little ones to medical appointments. She translates from English to Ukrainian, because many mothers are worried that they won't understand the medical language. Even when mothers understand everything, it's important to have someone close by who knows their mother tongue and understands the situation of a refugee.
Mothers need to be encouraged, to be sure that they are doing the right thing. During pregnancy, we do counselling and offer training for birth, breastfeeding, and baby care.
Olena learned about the Independent Midwives Association, which operates in Bucharest, through the support groups for refugees from Ukraine. Although she is already the mother of a 16-year-old teenager, Olena has become a mother again this year, and now she needs support and information, so she did not hesitate to contact a specialist and ask for the support from the Independent Midwives Association.
"These are the needs of every mother: guidance and support. Mothers need to be encouraged, to be sure that they are doing the right thing. During pregnancy, we do counselling and offer training for birth, breastfeeding, and baby care, and online counselling for mothers who are not living in Bucharest. The association also helps them with navigating the system. This is necessary for all mothers, in all localities. Romanian mothers also need this help," says Livia, who is a member of the Independent Midwives Association.
This programme also contributes to the strengthening of the medical services provided to Romanian mothers and children, by offering trainings to medical staff working directly with mothers and children living in Romania.
Livia’s visit was part of the project "Support network for reproductive health and increased access to pediatric care for refugee women and children", run by Independent Midwives Association with the support of UNICEF in Romania, funded by the Austrian Government, the Republic of Korea, and the United States Government.
Through this partnership, over 100 refugee children were vaccinated against measles, and 200 Ukrainian parents received breastfeeding counseling. Nearly 2,200 adolescents received information and assistance on reproductive health and gender-based violence prevention and participated in recreational activities. The project also provides translation services and legal support for refugees and is supporting nearly 1,400 Ukrainian refugee mothers and their children to access health services so far.
Since the beginning of war, more than 2.8 million Ukrainians have arrived in Romania. Of these, over 100,000 refugees are still in the country.
UNICEF in Romania continues to work together with the Romanian Government, national and local authorities, UN agencies, donors, non-governmental organizations and other partners to provide support to refugee children and their families.