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Fate of Romanian Children Has Improved, UN Says


BUCHAREST (Reuters) - The living conditions of Romania's AIDS -infected children have improved since the fall of communism a decade ago, but anaemia and malnutrition pose growing threats, a UNICEF official said on Wednesday.

"If we remember the documentaries of the early 1990s where we saw kids lying in their urine without any attendance...the conditions in which these children are living are absolutely not comparable any more," said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF regional representative.

Romania, which has the highest rate of AIDS among children in Europe, launched programmes in the 1990s to take children out of creaking institutions and place them with families. It also launched schemes to stop the spread of HIV.

But, launching a UNICEF report on the state of Romania's children over the past decade, Hulshof sounded a warning about a high rate of anaemia among pregnant women giving birth to more and more small babies weighing less than 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds).

"Studies in Romania are proving that anaemia and malnutrition in children, pregnant women and the general population is a growing problem," she said.

Hulshof said 40% of Romania's pregnant women and half of its children were suffering from anaemia, in a country where one third of the 22.5 million population live under the poverty line of $35 per month.

A solution to anaemia, she said, would be to add iron to fortify all bread flour, a measure due to be discussed by parliament.

Weeks after the execution of communist dictator Nicolae Ceuasescu in December 1989, the world was stunned by television images of many disabled children lying on the floor or in rusty beds in so-called orphanages across the country.

Romanian orphanages were crammed, even by the standards of communist states, because Ceausescu banned contraception and decreed that women should have at least four children.

Many poor women simply abandoned babies in hospital after giving birth.

Latest statistics show that from a total of 100,000 children now in state care, some 60,000 are still in institutions, while the rest had been adopted or were living in foster families. A dedcade ago, up to 170,000 were in state care.

Hulshof also said Romania had succeeded in stopping the infection of children by improving sanitation, including blood transfusions and injections.

"However, the mother-to-child transmission is a growing issue, and a growing problem is the heterosexual transmission in youth and adults," she added.

More than 2,000 children and 200 adults have died of AIDS since Romania reported its first case in 1985. Hulshof said 5,305 children and 1,306 adults were living with AIDS and another 4,000 children were HIV infected.


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Information in this article was accurate in December 14, 2000. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.