08 April 2020

On the frontline of Coronavirus for children and families: Moldova

In Moldova and around the world, we are working remotely to keep vulnerable families, like Violeta, her parents and her little brother, safe at home together through the pandemic.

Around the world, Hope and Homes for Children’s skilled and experienced frontline staff are working harder than ever now to keep all children safe where they belong: in a loving family. Liliana Rotaru leads our partner organisation, CCF Moldova, working to close orphanages and keep families together in Europe’s poorest country. Here she describes their new ways of working and most urgent priorities now.

Our first priority has been to make sure that we know what is happening to the families we work with, to reassure them that we are still here to support them and provide them with information.

In the first two weeks of the crisis, our team called over 160 families and some families told us that we were the first to contact them and tell them about the virus, what’s happened and what they should do to stay safe because not everyone has access to the internet or TV. Some of these calls have lasted for an hour and a half, but the families are so happy that we call them. Everyone was willing to hear another human voice.

 

“It’s such a difficult choice: look for work and risk getting the infection and bringing it back home to your children or staying home and having nothing to eat. This is a horrible decision to make.”

 

It’s nothing new to say that the worst hit, in all kinds of crisis, are the most vulnerable and fragile, both economically, physically and emotionally. So, in this case, it’s large families, single parents, children and parents with disabilities, children and parents living in extreme poverty, struggling to put the bread on the table but without other resources, without savings. And people now are losing their jobs at a time when they have extra mouths to feed because children can’t go to school or kindergarten where they could get a hot meal.

It’s very important to tell people that they should really stay isolated and not go to look for work. But it’s such a difficult choice: look for work and risk getting the infection and bringing it back home to your children or staying home and having nothing to eat. This is a horrible decision to make.

Of course, our other priority has been to protect our staff and so last week was the first time that a small number of colleagues were able to safely deliver food and hygiene essentials to families. Our social workers and psychologists are using their own cars, not using public transport and they are wearing masks and gloves. They stay outside and speak to the parents and children at a safe distance. Because they have already spoken on the phone, they can keep the visits very short and to the point.

 

“Of course, we are not miracle workers, but to bring food, hope or a kind word, I think it makes a huge difference from yesterday to today.”

 

One of our social workers, Renata, spoke on the phone to a single mother with five children. The youngest is only five months old and one of the other children has severe disabilities. She told Renata she had only one kilo of rice left in the house and she didn’t know what to feed the baby because she isn’t breastfeeding. Renata immediately called the doctor from the community and the mayor and the community social worker and she made sure that they provided the mother with baby formula, free of charge, for the following two months. She also arranged prescription medicines for the child with disabilities as well as copies of his medical records, in case he needs emergency care at any time. So when Renata visited in person the next day, the mother and her family, they had more hope.

Of course, we are not miracle workers, but to bring food, hope or a kind word, I think it makes a huge difference from yesterday to today.

 

“We also need to plan for life after Covid-19 because this time will come and families will need support to carry on with their lives, plan, plant, build their homes, feed their children and send them to school.”

 

We are also doing all we can to support children and staff in the institutions that we are working to close in Moldova, especially the largest institution where there are more than 100 children in care. To start with, they are lacking disinfectant, masks, gloves and other types of essential hygiene equipment and so we have been talking to the ministry of health to try to make sure they have the supplies they need. But another huge concern is whether there is enough staff to care for the children. Many carers travel in from the villages around the city and now that public transport is severely restricted, it is very hard for them to get to work. We are helping with fuel for a minibus to try to overcome this problem. We will see how it goes but it is the only way we can make sure there are enough staff to care for the children safely when there’s such a large group in a closed environment where the disease could be a terrible blow.

I would really urge people to keep supporting the work of Hope and Homes for Children around the world if they can, because children need us now more than ever. And we also need to plan for life after Covid-19 because this time will come and families will need support to carry on with their lives, plan, plant, build their homes, feed their children and send them to school. And I want to thank our supporters for that.