Kyiv, Ukraine – “I caught the last evacuation train. The next day, the station was bombed. Katya is still haunted by the very different turn her life could have taken.
At seven months pregnant, she had been hiding with her family in a cold basement for 11 days in the eastern Ukrainian town of Lysychansk. When she developed kidney stones and fell ill, she made the painful decision to leave her husband, parents and sister behind to embark on a grueling two-day journey alone to the neighboring Republic of Moldova. “We got into a sleeping car, with four people in one seat,” she said. “It was not an easy trip.”
Olga was also seven months pregnant when the sirens started wailing and bombs started falling on her hometown of Ochakiv, near the southern port city of Odessa. She knew she had no choice but to flee, taking everything she could with her, including her four-year-old son, Timofey. But by the time she left, a line of cars stretched farther than she could see, so she walked the 12 kilometers to the border. “It took us a long time. I had lots of bags and a tired toddler who was stumbling,” she recalled to UNFPA.
Giving birth alone and away from home
When they arrived in the Republic of Moldova, Olga and her son were hosted by a family in Balti, the country’s second largest city. She was struck by the warm welcome that greeted them, from the family who invited them to their home to the neighbors who brought them food.
But the trauma of war and having to flee her life as she knew it had left Olga under intense stress. When she was in the third trimester of her pregnancy, she was admitted to the maternity ward in Balti so that the doctors could monitor her, and then gave birth to a healthy girl by cesarean section. Upon her arrival in the Republic of Moldova, Katya was also referred to a local clinic, where she received prompt, comprehensive and free prenatal care, before delivering a healthy baby boy in the same maternity ward as Olga. .
The two women were amazed to learn that their full treatment, delivery and hospital anesthesia were all provided free of charge thanks to an agreement signed between UNFPA and the Moldovan national health insurance system. The agreement ensures that refugees from Ukraine can access the same free and comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare services as Moldovan citizens, including emergency obstetric care for women with life-threatening complications.
Guarantee access to health care and support
The initiative is essential for some 22,000 Ukrainian refugee women of childbearing age in the Republic of Moldova, 1,500 of whom are currently pregnant. In addition to skilled care before, during and after childbirth, women can access cancer screening, family planning services, treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other essential sexual and reproductive health services.
“We are doing everything we can for refugees and Modolvan women to ensure that a healthy child is born and that mothers leave the hospital healthy,” said Caroline Frumusaki, chief medical officer of the ‘hospital. Ms. Frumasaki personally oversaw Olga’s antenatal care and the birth of her daughter, and told UNFPA that her mission was to ensure that all women, wherever they came from, received maternal and child health they need, when they need it.
UNFPA is working closely with the Government of Moldova and its partners to ensure that women and girls of all ages who have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine can continue to access lifesaving services and information. sexual and reproductive health, as well as psychosocial support. to deal with the trauma and stress they are likely to experience as their lives are turned upside down by war.
A bittersweet moment
While Olga is relieved that her daughter was born safely, what should have been a joyful time in her life turned out to be bleak instead. “Our New Year’s resolution was to buy a new house. We had planned to celebrate the birth of our granddaughter and our son’s fifth birthday with family and friends. But everything has changed, nothing is certain anymore. It’s hard to make resolutions now,” she said.
It’s been just over four months since the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the Republic of Moldova is estimated to host some 86,000 Ukrainian refugees. UNFPA has so far distributed more than 10 tons of reproductive health supplies to hospitals and clinics across the Republic of Moldova, including the Balti maternity hospital where Katya and Olga gave birth. The deliveries contain medicines and materials for emergency obstetric care, treatment of sexually transmitted infections and clinical management of rape and will cover the needs of some 450,000 people, including Ukrainian refugees.
Katya said she was grateful that her son, Matvey, was healthy, although it was far from how she had imagined the birth of her first child. Alone, far from home and with an uncertain future ahead of them, she says she often feels anxious and lost. “My husband and I have dreamed of this day for so long. His dad is very excited and I can’t wait for him to hold our baby in his arms.