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“Our Mission is to Help the Most Vulnerable Segments of the Moldovan Society”

Welcome Magazine Interview with Mr. Richard Maranta, Humanitarian Aid Attaché, Head of the Swiss Cooperation Office in Moldova

Mr. Maranta, could you, please, present to our readers the main lines of activities of your organization in Moldova?

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which is part of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is due to render Humanitarian Aid and provide Technical Assistance to a beneficiary country. We are active in different areas. The most important one is Water and Sanitation, followed by the Social and Health sectors. We give additionally a significant support to the Civil Society (Non-Governmental Organizations). The fight against Human Trafficking and Corruption remains for SDC and for the Government of Moldova, as President Voronin mentioned it several times, an area of real concern. We are involved in this area too.

SDC started its operations end of August 2000, following the drought that affected Moldova at that time and the international appeal launched by former President Lucinski. Since then, the Swiss Cooperation Office has constantly been trying to help the most vulnerable segments of the Moldovan society, such as poor families, elderly people, disadvantaged children, psycho-neurological institutions and villages facing difficulties with water supply.

Our budget for this year amounts to around USD 3 millions. It has slightly increased if compared with the last 3 years. This positive trend should continue, if the Swiss Parliament, which is due to discuss in June the next 4 years Credit Frame for Eastern Europe, gives us the financial means to develop our activities.

What are the main projects implemented by SDC in Moldova? What tangible results have been achieved in the past years?

As I have already mentioned, one of the most important SDC projects is Water and Sanitation. The phase V of the “Drinking and Wastewater Program in Moldova” is in progress since January this year. The overall goal of this program is to improve the water supply of part of the population living in the districts of Ungheni and Hincesti. The targeted number of beneficiaries of the program shall reach about 30.000 people.

Mother and Child Health Project aims to improve the health and development of children under age of 5 years. The first project was launched in the Ungheni, Nisporeni and Calarasi raions in year 2002. It has entered its last implementation stage at the beginning of February 2004 and focuses on the family and community practices. Therefore, 100 non-medical selected educators were trained according to IMCI (Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses) Program issues and Antenatal Care to conduct the awareness campaign for 11.000 families in reproductive age in all communities of the former Ungheni Judets.

400 family doctors and nurses were trained according to IMCI Program elaborated by WHO/UNICEF at the course on Antenatal Care and Family Planning and are now applying this knowledge into practice. The second project is targeting Chisinau, Orhei and Tighina and is in planning process.

SDC is also very active in the social sector. For example, 11 soup kitchens were organized during 5 winter moths with the support of the Moldovan Red Cross and the NGO “Youth for the Right to Live” in 10 Moldovan towns (including Transnistrian ones) reaching more than 2.900 beneficiaries. 500 tons of coal were distributed to different social institutions.

Furthermore, 20 social institutions were supplied with mattresses, blankets, bed linen and some other items. The main target of that program was to improve general living conditions of the residents.

One of the ongoing projects is the Milk Powder Project. 54 tons of milk powder were imported from Switzerland and will be distributed in three installments by 18 tons each to 20 social institutions, orphanages, boarding schools and TB sanatoriums for children, thus improving food daily ration and health status of beneficiaries. This project started in April and will finish in December this year.

Following an appeal launched by the Government of the Republic of Moldova, SDC is implementing an Emergency Cash Project in 200 villages of the most affected by drought 2003 regions in the south of Moldova. The project is aimed to enable its beneficiaries to decide themselves on what they need the most – be it to purchase food supply or any other urgently needed goods or services. This project provided a one-fold contribution of MDL 850 in cash to 7.000 beneficiaries. The overall amount of direct contributions to beneficiaries is 550.000 USD. The project finished in early June.

Combating Trafficking in Women/Rehabilitation of Victims of Trafficking Project is another one of high priority. The project focuses on the component of protection and reintegration of the victims of trafficking through a comprehensive and high-quality approach, designed with the aim to effectively assist and protect the returned victim. The rehabilitation program of IOM (International Organization for Migration) is supported by SDC through the Rehabilitation Center in Chisinau. In January 2004 the shelter restarted its activity and since then more than 30 were assisted including 22 newly returned cases and more than 10 that continued rehabilitation program.

Does your organization cooperate with any local organizations? If yes, can this cooperation be regarded as successful one?

All projects are usually discussed with authorities, both at Republican level (Ministries of Labour and Social Protection, Ecology, Health, Economy and Foreign Affairs) and at Raions and Municipal levels with local authorities. NGOs are consulted and sometimes play an active role in our projects. Activities in the Water sector are discussed first with the final beneficiaries themselves, the villagers, who must contribute either in cash or in kind (ownership and stakeholder aspects). Participation of the population is a main factor to ensure that our projects remain sustainable in the future.

The Swiss Cooperation Office maintains regular and good contacts with the International Donors in order to develop a better coordination and avoid duplications or fill possible gaps.

In overall, this cooperation may be qualified as very good, although from time to time, difficulties arise. But through constructive dialogue, mutual understanding of the respective needs and obligations of each parties involved (Ministries, Municipalities, Beneficiaries and SDC) we always find a way to solve the problems.

Could you, please, tell us about any plans for the future? What new projects does your organization plan to launch in the near future?

From 2005, projects should become more orientated towards middle and long term development (technical assistance), although emergency and humanitarian aid shall still continue, due to the existing important needs which unfortunately may not be entirely covered neither by the Government (lack of funds) nor by the other Donors. For example, SDC should remain active in Water and Sanitation. Other types of actions, with the involvement of Seco (Secrétariat à l’Economie) should become a reality. Seco is planning to help Small and Medium Enterprises sector as well as the promotion of Moldovan exports.

Could you, please, say just a few words about yourself?

46 years old. I am in this type of job for almost 20 years. Working initially for the International Committee of Red Cross in conflict zones (Irak, Ethiopia), I never stop “jumping” from one country to another, sometimes for a short mission (Senegal, Namibia), sometimes for a longer one (Mali, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, partly Kosovo). Moldova should be my longer assignment so far, which will end in December this year.

What were your first impressions when you just arrived in Moldova and Chisinau? And now, any differences?

Moldovans are a very nice and charming people. The landscape reminded me of Switzerland, although I sometimes miss our high and snowy mountains! These positive impressions should not let us forget that Moldova, for the time being at the border with Europe, remains a “poor” country in economical terms. Since my arrival, I have been able to notice some encouraging differences, but most of the time only in the capital, where the building sector is booming. Lots of small and medium enterprises have appeared which did not exist a few years ago. Consumption is on the rise as well, but for imported and rather expensive products, thanks to the Moldovan Diaspora and all its money coming back to the country. I sometimes fear that the countryside may be “excluded” from this development. The actual negative migration trend may cause future problems: Who will cultivate your rich soil in a few years?

The present government is truly dedicated to improve the actual situation and we all do acknowledge these efforts, but Moldova needs some big private investments, which will create jobs, and opportunities, develop inland production, be it for Moldovan market or for export. Private Banks must get more involved and must accept to take more risks in supporting the economy. Only this may allow reversing the trend which sadly pushes so many young citizens out of the country, in search for a possible better future elsewhere.

Do you have anything to wish Welcome magazine and its readers?

Well … nothing special in fact… continue to read Welcome magazine, as I do every time I fly! It gives the readers a good general overview of what is happening in Moldova. And of course I wish to all of you a nice and warm summer time as well. Thank you!

Interviewed by Vlada Popushoi

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