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
"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
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
"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
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
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.