United for health and for the vulnerable people, despite the distance
35 hometown associations, partners of the UNDP-Switzerland “Migration and Local Development” Project mobilised USD 30,000 and offered essential support to local communities.
The pandemic found countries unprepared and took people by surprise — and Moldova was not an exception. However, neither the physical distancing recommended to people, nor migration, internal or external, could hinder social solidarity. The 200 communities that established and developed hometown associations had a surprisingly rapid response, which defied the anxiety and fear of the unknown.
With dedicated mentors, Slobozia Mare learned on the go how to manage a public health emergency
In Slobozia Mare — a village with picturesque landscapes in the southern part of the country — time seems to have stopped since March 2020. Schools and kindergartens closed, the local market was not working any more, producers were not able to sell their products and farmers had nowhere to buy agricultural inputs.
For some weeks after the first case of COVID-19 was registered in the country, on 7 March, the virus “has been avoiding” the village, even though dozens of people were returning from abroad.
“People were very responsible. A group of young people coming back from the UK called me on Messenger and informed that they were coming back home and asked me what they should do, what rules to follow. They were already ready for self-isolation measures — their relatives had already prepared the uninhabited houses of grandparents and other relatives for them to stay in during the quarantine period. As soon as we found that people were coming back to the community, I would call the family doctor in order to monitor the situation,” said Valentina Carastan, mayor of Slobozia Mare.
However, on 25 April, 10 villagers employed by a wine factory located in the region tested positive as a result of an outbreak in the company. That was the beginning of the battle for keeping the epidemiological situation of the community under control.
“We have been very lucky to be supported by two natives during all this time. One of them is Viorica Chelban, a neurologist living in the United Kingdom, and Iurie Danilenco, a dentist living in Balti municipality. I don’t know how I would have managed the situation without them,” told Valentina Carastan.
Despite the full-time job and in the third trimester of pregnancy, Viorica Chelban did not hesitate to get involved. During an online meeting organised by the Hometown Association, she suggested and supported the community to implement an action plan for the pandemic period.
“I suggested them involve doctors from the local health centre and divide the population into several categories. People with chronic illnesses and elderly people should get the most attention. They are the ones who should be monitored by doctors, remotely, and, if needed, a group of volunteers should provide the support they require.”
Viorica knows that there is need for personal protection equipment at home, so she sent 10 protective screens. She stayed connected until the 10 villagers were treated of COVID-19 and the number of cases went down to zero.
Iurie Danilenco, the dentist from Balti, donated 400 pairs of gloves, protection equipment, 2 non-contact infrared thermometers, as well as 20 litres of sanitizer, disinfectant wipes. All these goods were provided when they were needed the most, when it was hard to find them on the market, the demand being very high.
“As we had that outbreak in the village and 179 people came back from abroad so far, all this support was vital, especially for the frontline workers. I don’t know how we would have managed the situation without that help,” concluded Valentina Carastan.
In Taraclia, they do “good deeds for good times”
In Taraclia village, Causeni district, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was to a health worker. Ever since, the number of cases increased up to 12 people.
“Even before the first case was confirmed, the population was very cautious. It was probably hardest for the single persons and for the bed-ridden people,” said Vladimir Cucereavii, mayor of the village.
From the onset of the pandemic, several inhabitants of Taraclia village launched a call to the villagers — to gather foodstuff for vulnerable people. To do that, people from the village were leaving foodstuff in a special box at the food store in the centre of the village.
“Pictures of the box for donations were published on the Facebook page of the Hometown Association. Thus, a couple of days after the campaign was launched, several natives, who are currently living elsewhere in the country or overseas, expressed their willingness to contribute and asked us to open a bank account, which we did,” said Tatiana Chiparus, president of the Taraclia Hometown Association.
In only two weeks from launching the campaign “Good deeds for good times”, 10 people donated over USD 1300. This money was used to purchase food for 190 villagers in need.
“I am very grateful for all the food I received. I have a very small pension and it is not even enough to buy all the medicines I need. However, what matters most for me is that someone visits me and takes care of me during this isolation period,” said Ion Zalisciuc, inhabitant of Taraclia village.
Solidarity of natives saves lives in Edinet
Three young natives of Edinet — Ruslan Resetnic, Stefan Cojocaru and Daniel Roller — formed an initiative group. On 5 April, they launched a call to the entrepreneurs and natives from everywhere, encouraging them to contribute by supporting the efforts to manage the COVID-19 crisis.
Here is the message of the fundraising campaign: “The Republic of Moldova, similarly to other countries, undergoes a difficult period, that’s why our health system is going to be under huge pressure in the near future. We believe that this crisis caused by the novel coronavirus will build a wave of solidarity in the Republic of Moldova. Please, donate. The money is going to be used for equipment, hygiene and protection products, programs aiming at streamlining the fight against this virus.”
On 23 April, the first batch of equipment, worth EUR 986, was delivered to the hospital. It consisted of 100 protective coveralls and 500 caps.
The initiative group had weekly discussions with the hospital management, to identify the needs of the institution and what had to be purchased. Some of the necessary medical equipment were the humidifiers for the oxygen therapy, and they cost around MDL 25 thousand.
“This support was provided to us in a time of greatest need. Along with other things, the 10 humidifiers for the oxygen therapy were critical. This allows us to supply oxygen to the patients in respiratory distress. Having 40–50 days confirmed daily, these devices are just enough for us to be able to manage the situation without losing precious time for every patient with a severe form of the disease,” said Aliona Rusanovschi, Deputy Director and anaesthesiologist-intensivist at Edinet District Hospital.
During two months since the crowdfunding campaign has started, with the support of 90 donors, USD 3,197 was collected out of the target amount of USD 5,436.
“It is an honour for us, but also a great responsibility. The open dialogue with the hospital management allows us to buy exactly what is needed, but also to understand the impact that our initiative had. We are grateful to every donor that contributed so that the doctors from Edinet would be more protected and the patients safer,” said Stefan Cojocaru.
These are just three cases when the natives mobilised and responded to the challenges that communities faced during the first two months of pandemic. Besides them, other 32 communities that are partners of the Migration and Local Development Project, implemented by UNDP with the support of Switzerland, succeeded to join forces in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
The first hometown associations were established in the Republic of Moldova in 2016 by UNDP, with the support of Switzerland. Currently there are over 200 hometown associations in the country, which aim at involving natives in local development.
Text: Tatiana Solonari, UNDP Moldova