Co ordinating projects on the ground in Romania has been one of the most difficult challenges we have had setting up projects. Due to the wide spread discrimination against the Roma community, who have been forced to live there, it has been hard to find organsiations that want to work with the community and in such a terrible environment.
Pata Rat dump is probably the worst dump that we have encountered, in five years working on inhabited rubbish dumps all over the world. And yet, it is only a couple of hours from the UK and the dump itself only a ten minute drive from the cosmoplitan town of Cluj.
Fortunately thanks to the assistance and excellent co ordibnation by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) the SSP team were able to work in collabration with UNDP, Foundation of Development & Population (FDP) and The Municipality.
Each organisation has contributed the vital steps needed in order to provide emergency intervention and care to the children on Pata Rat dump. The children are living in squalid conditions and not only do they have to deal with the common dangers on dumps including toxic waste and smoke, there is the added dimension of the very cold weather and thick mud they are forced to wade through.
What we discovered when we site visited with UNDP was that though a mobile unit had been provided by the Municipality and FDP had sourced a fantastic team of social workers and medics. However the unit was only running at half time and there was no existing provision for mothers and babies. And with over 28 babies actually in the dump, malnutrition and sanitation was a dangerous concern.
Fortunately, thanks to all the organisations working together, SSP has been able to partner with FDP to ensure that the mobile unit runs all day. This means that the children that were out in the cold and on the dump for half the time will now be able to access the mobile unit. Here they will have lessons, be fed and washed, taken on trips and more importantly taken off the dump into a safe environment.
We have added to this program A Mother & Babies Project where the mothers can come to the mobile unit with their babies and work together with a doctor and health professional to ensure the babies are clean, healthy and fed, while being regularly monitored.
Many of the babies are suffering from malnutriton and the lack of sanitation or nappies is generating further illness. We witnessed some mothers feeding their babies sugar water out of desperation.
There is only one tap on the dump for several hundred people, and this is toxic. It takes 20 minutes to fill a small water bottle of contaminated water from here. So it is essential that as well as giving aid to the babies, the mothers have a safe clean environment in which to prepare formula.
Many of the mothers are unable to breast feed due to suffering from malnutrition themselves. We hope that after this emergency intervention, we will be able to implement a larger nutrition project that will help mothers and all children, including babies, by the summer.
Next to the dump is Dallas camp where we have worked previously with Pro Roma. Pro Roma have a kindergarten for the children there and are starting a mother and baby program for which we have also provided aid. Pro Roma also assisted is the data collection of the dump babies to help us put this urgent program together.