Over the last few weeks we have been involved in a series of meetings with a team of professional people we have come to think of as friends with a common goal.

They are Doctors and Professors and Midwives from The Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University hospital, Vasile Goldis,  Arad, Doctors from around the County of Arad,  Doctors and Professors from The Karolinska Institute and Karolinska University hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, and Dalarnas University in Sweden, Professors from the Swedish Association of Midwives and representatives of the White Ribbon Alliance.

Together we have been developing the way forward to deepen and expand our existing collaboration to help provide pre and post natal care for women and their children living in situations of extreme poverty. The aim is to help to reduce child mortality and death of women in child birth and promote healthy child development for the first 1000 days of life.

The limited research available points at a significantly higher rate of child mortality amongst the Roma, particulary amongst those living in poverty.

According to the World Bank “If you are a Roma child living in Romania today, the likelihood that you were born into poverty is three times higher than other Romanians born around you.”

http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/04/07/breaking-the-cycle-of-exclusion-for-roma-in-romania

The at- risk-of-poverty rate of Romanian Roma, at 84%, is almost three times higher than among neighboring non-Roma. The rate of Romanian Roma households facing severe material deprivation is also alarmingly high (90%).

(Achieving Roma inclusion in Romania – What does it take? Prepared by the Human Development and Sustainable Development Teams Europe and Central Asia
The World Bank Group February 28, 2014 )

In 2012 a paper entitled Roma Health: Perspective of the Actors Involved in the Health System – Doctors, Health Mediators, and Patients revealed that in the area of health, discriminatory practices toward Roma patients are manifested such as “avoiding physical contact with the patients; non-involvement of the patients and of their family in choosing the treatment; omission of the explanations concerning the risks of administering a certain type of treatment; using aggressive procedures.”

(M. Wamseidel, E. Vincze, and I. Ionescu, Roma Health: Perspective of the Actors Involved in the Health System – Doctors, Health Mediators, and Patients (Bucharest: Romani CRISS, 2012). )

The Acheiving Roma inclusion report by the World Bank suggests that these kinds of  “experiences may help explain why so few Roma complete secondary school or visit health practitioners regularly.”

According to the 2010 Decade Watch Romania Report (page 28) 89.4% of Roma women aged over 15 years never had a mammography; and 84.2% of Roma women over 18 never did a screening for cervical cancer.  About half of Roma women either have never seen a gynaecologist or have only seen a gynaecologist during pregnancy……The women are at high risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery. Proper maternal and perinatal care is lacking.

Women living in poverty in marginalised communities, where functional illiteracy is common, do not always fully understand the importance of accessing medical help during pregnancy.

Where they do understand then the pressures of living from day to day means that it is easy to lose track of future appointments made weeks in advance.

The situation is further exacerbated among the Roma by their experiences of discrimination and lack of respect on the part of some medical staff

For many reasons prior to our collaboration, it was common that the first time that the Doctors saw a pregnant mum from our communities, was when she was brought into the Accident and Emergency ward ready to give birth. This was stressful for the mum and the unborn child and also for the Doctors who had no information at all about the patient or the baby.

We have been collaborating for a few years already seeking to address some of these issues. Our volunteers and staff have been meeting regularly with families and encouraging and facilitating trusting relationships between the Hospital and the pregnant mums, going with them to important meetings with the Doctors and ensuring that they don’t miss  appointments. We have been providing additional simple foods to suppliment a mums diet in the third trimester and for the first few weeks after the birth. Talking with them about the importance of breast feeding and helping with baby milk when breast feeding is not an option.

Everyone involved can see the very real results of this investment of time and care over the course of the last couple of years.

We are really excited about developing this collaboration to the next level.

We are wanting to expand and develop our existing team and are looking to recruit midwives, nurses and social workers.

If you are interested in joining us as a volunteer in this pioneering part of our work then please get in touch with us by emailing through the contact us page on this site.