Forgotten Children of Moldova - Child Abuse in Europe's Poorest
Republic of Moldova is an independent country bordered by Romania
and the Ukraine. Its size is comparable to the State of Maryland.
Although independent from the USSR since 1991, Russian forces
have remained on Moldovan territory east of the Dniester River.
Generally regarded as the poorest nation in Europe, Moldova became
the first former Soviet state to elect a Communist as its
president in 2001. The country has a population of 4.3 million
and is in population decline due to a low birth rate and the
migration of citizens to other countries for employment.
otherwise specified, the following factors were identified by
UNICEF, and validated by the Kids First Fund during travels to
Moldova, as key challenges:
half of Moldova's people live below the poverty line. More
than 46% of the population is below the government-defined
subsistence minimum of US$90 per adult per month.
- 25% of working adults have left the country to work abroad. National
opinion polls conducted during 2000 found 40% of young people
would leave Moldova forever if they had the chance. According to
UNICEF, emigration has left 35,000 school age children without
the care of both parents, and an additional 75,000 children with
one parent abroad. These official statistics have been called
into question, with some experts suggesting real numbers may be
two or three times higher
children receive little nurturing in the home. There is a lack
of stimulation for children in many families, especially those
affected by extreme poverty. The overall lack of resources, with
many families lacking toys or books, undermines the development
of children. For example, 25% of three and four-year-old
children are unable to name any color, and 50% of all children
are unprepared for full-time schooling.
and education resources are deteriorating. Infant mortality
rates are among the highest in Europe. The number of
HIV-positive children and children with disabilities is
increasing due to minimal health promotion, unsafe sexual
contact, and inadequate medical services.
is one of the main countries of origin for the trafficking of
women and children. The primary purpose of this human trade is
for begging and sexual exploitation in Western Europe, the
Balkans, Russia and the Middle East.
Soviet-era tradition of institutionalizing children continues.
The Soviet philosophy of welfare was to remove dangerous persons
from society and to place them in the care of the state. This
legacy largely continues in Moldova. Victims of child abuse fall
under this category and are often placed in orphanages and
boarding schools. Removal of abused children, rather than
treating the whole family, remains an all-too-common solution.
neglect and abuse seems to be an accepted part of family life.
In an extensive survey of parents conducted by UNICEF, four out
of ten parents say physical violence "occurs frequently" in
families in Moldova.
many ways the child abuse situation in Moldova mirrors that of
other former Soviet republics. Conditions in Moldova, however,
seem to be more desperate as the country appears to be stuck in
the culture of its Communist past and unable to make the economic
leap to become an efficient food producer for Europe. Extreme
poverty, corrupt government and a fractured family structure have
conspired to create an almost hopeless future for at-risk
information is available on child abuse in Moldova by reading the
"The Forgotten Children of Moldova - Observations on Child Abuse
in Europe's Poorest Country under the Reports and Studies
section of the News pages.