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“Nobody knows anything!” – the most common phrase during this crisis time

“Nobody knows anything!” – the most common phrase during this crisis time

In the last days our team has contacted by phone or the Internet a range of partners representing our initiative groups/local partners from 40 communities all over Moldova to learn about the impact of the epidemiological situation. In the 40 communities apart from the 40 initiative groups we have a number of 17 local NGOs whom we interviewed.

Some of the conclusions of the research:
1. THE LOCAL COMMISSIONS FOR EXCEPTIONAL SITUATIONS SEEM TO BE THERE IN EVERY COMMUNITY, BUT THEY DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT TO DO

Commissions for Exceptional Situations were created in all 40 communities. Generally speaking the Commissions seem to be monitoring the situation. However, these commissions do not have clear instructions and are permanently waiting for new directions “from the Center”, i.e. from the capital city of Chisinau.

The press-releases of the National Commission for Exceptional Situations are general, technical and confusing. For example, Order no. 3 from March 23, 2020 of the Commission for Exceptional Situations in relation to LPA states:

  1. The local commissions for exceptional situations will ensure, within 24 hours, the revision of all the decisions, approved from the moment the state of emergency was declared in the Republic of Moldova, in accordance with the provisions of the Commission for Exceptional Situations of the Republic of Moldova.
  2. The decisions approved by the local Commissions for exceptional situations, which come in contradiction with the Parliament Decision no.55 / 2020 on the declaration of the state of emergency, with the Decisions of the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission and with the Provisions of the Commission for Exceptional Situations of the Republic of Moldova.

The quality of the activity of these commissions depends, in the most direct way, on how the local mayors perceive the reaction in a crisis situation. There is a crisis in terms of communication within the administrative circles as well as in regard to the population.

The most common phrase in our interviews as “Nobody knows anything!”

2. THE SAFETY MEASURES IMPOSED BY THE EXCEPTIONAL STATE ARE GENERALLY RESPECTED

Although in all the interviewed communities the safety measures required by the authorities (including in stores and other public places) are respected (most of the people staying at home) – there are cases of negligence from some citizens who do not want to comply.

The penalties for citizens violating the quarantine regime are not known. It is not clear who applies the provisions of the Law and in what way.

We have not identified any penalty case for recorded breaches of the quarantine regime.

In order to keep the situation under control, in some villages, the mayor personally goes to the store, buys products and takes them to people who have come from abroad and stay home in quarantine, provided that they respect the regime.

There is a need for a “menu” of solutions proposed by the Government to local authorities so that the most relevant measures are applied.

3. MAYORALTIES – BETWEEN CONFUSION AND UNCERTAINTY

The local mayoralties work with closed doors and within a short work-program. It is not clear what their activity is in this period of time. The mayors do not receive instructions from Government. It is not clear who coordinates / monitors the activity of local Commissions in this crisis situation.

4. EDUCATION: SMARTPHONE – THE “SAVING” GADGET IN A PERIOD OF CRISIS. Who would have believed?

It is an uncertain, confused situation that invites to immediate reaction.

Teachers from rural areas teach online lessons on their own smartphones using inappropriate applications for the e-learning concept, like WhatsApp and Viber. The ZOOM application is used mostly in cities.

There is reported pressure on teachers from the “hierarchically superior institutions”. Often, those pressures are beyond the acceptable limits.

All interviewed teachers reported the situation as being “a very big challenge” which affect both teachers and pupils. The teachers stated that they were overcome and exhausted by the situation, but trying to cope with the situation by discussing with other teachers seeking to improve the communication with the students from one lesson to another. The process of academic evaluation on-line seems to be extremely complex too.

The multiple e-groups create confusion for teachers and pupil,\. There is simply too much exatra-work and energy consumption.

The most affected students are the poorest ones who have neither a computer nor a telephone. These children do NOT participate in the lessons in any ways. No measures have been taken to identify any solution for them.

Another challenge is the lack of Internet connection which requires families to pay additional costs for additional internet traffic.

5. FORCED UNPAID LEAVES – an UNACCEPTABLE REALITY. DAY-LABORES WITHOUT WORK, STATE EMPLOYEES SHRUG THEIR SHOULDERS

With great regret, there are situations of forced unpaid leave. Although for some public and private institutions this seems to be a solution at the moment, it should not in any way affect the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova and the laws of the Republic of Moldova. It is unclear how to proceed when applying the measure of forced unpaid leave.

The state employees worry about their salaries. They hope the government will pay them full salaries in March. In some kindergartens, the auxiliary staff was forced to write a leave on their own request.

The most affected individuals are the daily-laborers (wagers). Thousands of people are at high risk of falling below extreme poverty due to the lack of seasonal income (work in the field or in different agricultural enterprises). The entrepreneurs avoid using their services due to the isolation regime. On the other hand the isolation regime prohibits groups of people (such as “collectivities” of work) to activate.

The State Labor Inspectorate announced that in 2019 there were registered 19,428 official day-laborers. De facto, the number of day-laborers can reach tens of thousands.

6. ENTREPRENEURS & FOOD RESERVES

The farmers continue to work in the fields saying that this is a very important time of the year for field work and they cannot delay. At the same time, they worry about how they will market their products as all markets are closed in Moldova.
The business people are stressed, they are in a state of suspense, they do not know how long this pandemic will last and they are working with obvious concern.

In one of the communities there were positively tested 2 cases of COVID-19 and the entire area is quarantined. The food trucks are not allowed to pass either, and the reserves run out.

The authorities are in crisis of ideas and do not know who at the regional level coordinates these moments of crisis.
In some communities there are no Moldovan fruits, only citrus fruits which are sold at a very high price. No one knows when they will be.

Huge problems with hygienic supplies. No hygienic masks, nor hand-sanitizers are available in pharmacies, including in HOSPITALS. The situation looks like deteriorating from one day to another.

The leaders of the initiative groups we spoke to are by profession: librarians, teachers, school managers, culture workers, community mediators, town hall secretaries, local elected officials, and young people.

“From the discussions with the local leaders I noticed that people are working chaotic, scared, according to the needs and obligations. No one expected such a situation. People are not prepared, they do not have an action plan or a vision how to plan their time and work best.” – Lilia Sula, program coordinator, IRI.

To contact the IRI staff you can e-mail to office@iri.md.