Ensuring Ukrainian refugees have access to comprehensive reproductive health services in Moldova
27 June 2022
“Our New Year's resolution was to buy a new home,” says Olga.
“We planned to celebrate the birth of our baby girl and our son Timofey turning five at our new house with our family and friends.”
Olga was seven months pregnant when she fled to Moldova with her four-year old son. The family home was close to the military warehouse in Ochakiv town, near the southern port city of Odessa. When the sirens started wailing and bombs began to fall, Olga knew she had no choice but to leave.
By the time she started on the 12 kilometre journey to the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, there was a queue of cars stretching back several kilometres, so she walked. “It took us a long time, I had bags and a tired toddler stumbling along,” she recalls. On arrival in Moldova, Olga and her son were hosted by a family in Balti, the country’s second largest city. She still feels grateful for the warm welcome that greeted her – the Moldovan family who invited her and her son into their home and the neighbours who brought food, eggs and chicken.
The trauma of the war and the journey to Moldova, however, left Olga experiencing severe stress. Now in the third trimester of her pregnancy, she was admitted to Balti Maternity Hospital for monitoring and later gave birth to a healthy daughter via caesarean section. Olga had heard that she could deliver her daughter without paying a fee at the local hospital, but was still surprised that the anesthesia and caesarean operation were all free of charge.
The timely, quality and comprehensive support Olga was able to access was a result of a partnership signed between UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, and the National Health Insurance Company. Through UNFPA’s dedicated budgetary contribution to the National Compulsory Health Insurance Programme, all women refugees from Ukraine can access the same package of sexual and reproductive health care services as the Moldovan population, including emergency obstetric care for women experiencing complications during pregnancy. This is essential for the estimated 22,000 women refugees of reproductive age, including the 1,500 women who are currently pregnant.
“We do everything we can for both refugees and Modolvan women to ensure that a healthy child is born and that mothers leave the hospital fit and well,” said Caroline Frumusaki, Head Physician at Balti Maternity, who personally oversaw the treatment of Olga and the delivery of her baby. She emphasized that her mission - and that of other doctors - is to ensure that all women, wherever they are from, receive timely, appropriate and quality maternal and child health care.
Under the scheme – in addition to skilled care before, during and after birth – women refugees can also access pap-tests, for cervical cancer prevention, family planning, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and other essential sexual and reproductive health services.
Olga is thankful that her daughter was born safely, but what should have been a joyful period of her life has been very bleak. "Today everything has changed, nothing is certain anymore,” she says sadly. “It’s difficult to make new long-term plans and resolutions, but we have to keep on living for the sake of our children, and make sure that they are healthy and safe.”