Skip to main content

Twenty-First Century Underground World

At the doorstep of the European Union, Romania conceals a world at the lowest levels of its social and economic life, a world only occasionally mentioned in statistics and electoral speeches. The extremely poor Roma communities living in Sibiu County include thousands of children, most of them in critical health conditions, with no possibility of access to health care, educational services, or basic hygiene conditions. Roma families face an alarming increase in children’s disease incidence and school abandonment, social and economic isolation, and exclusion from vocational training and the labor market. Roma county leaders are disappointed with the support provided by the state and blame the system for their situation.

This article was written as part of an investigative journalism fellowship program funded by the Open Society Institute. OSI’s Roma Health and Health Media programs collaborated to support the Center for Independent Journalism, based in Bucharest, Romania, to launch an investigative journalism fellowship on the topic of access to health care for Roma. After a national two-day editors' roundtable and a competitive selection process, the project resulted in the production and publishing of three pieces in regional newspapers in Romania. The work details various issues impacting Roma health—which is disproportionally poorer than that of non-Roma residing in the same communities. The articles bring to light the need to further improve access to quality health care for Roma and explore the systems that create unequal access.

The article is available for download in English and in Romani. A glossary of Romani terms is also available.

Subscribe to updates about Open Society’s work around the world