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FEATURE STORY

Moldova: Keeping Warm with the Lights On

January 29, 2009


In Orhei, a town in Moldova , the maternity ward in the regional hospital is as dreary as it is drafty. The chill in the building is the result of a 30 year-old soviet-era heating system that has been poorly maintained and was only meant to supply heat to part of the hospital even when it was brand new.

World Bank Group

In Orhei, a town in Moldova , the maternity ward in the regional hospital is as dreary as it is drafty. The chill in the building is the result of a 30 year-old soviet-era heating system that has been poorly maintained and was only meant to supply heat to part of the hospital even when it was brand new. The poor heating makes things more difficult for the whole hospital, and for the 130 000 people in the county that rely on the facility when they are sick.

The shortcomings of the heating system are felt most in the maternity ward. They are doing the best with what they have - delivering 1400 babies in 2007 - but it isn't easy for staff, the new mothers or for the new arrivals, who poke their heads out from piles of fleece.


" It's very difficult to not have heat in any stage of the pregnancy; before, during or after. We have to wear so many clothes to stay warm, it's hard for us to move and it's hard for our babies to move, which is important for them at this stage. They need to be able to move their arms and legs... It was very chilly during the delivery. "

Mariana Glebova


The hospital tries to make up for the lack of heat with electric space heaters, which are costly and inefficient, and mean that there is not money for other things that are important for new mothers and new babies.

"We have one shower for the whole maternity ward. Our resources are very scarce.... we keep the lights off to save energy,” says Angela Turcan, Head of the maternity ward . “We're lucky we have plastic bottles to use [to fill with hot water] to keep the babies warm. We have to be very innovative.”

Through the Energy II Project , the Moldovan Government, supported by the World Bank, is working to improve heating and lighting systems in public buildings across the country. Among other results, so far the project has improved heating in 23 schools and 12 medical institutions, benefiting 8,399 students and about 1 million patients, staff and visitors.

"The old system was broken, so the water froze in the radiators. We were without heating for 5 years and had only electric heat. The new system is more affordable,” said Marina Rosca, Chief Administrator at a hospital now renovated by the project.

Her colleague Heluta Vovc, Head of Physical Therapy , echoed her sentiments: "Electrical Heaters weren't powerful enough to do the job; so patients used to have to wear coats during the procedure."

The project has benefits for the environment, as well. Greenhouse gas emissions were reduced with the switch from oil or coal to gas and the participating municipalities now receive carbon credits (about $10,000 per municipality).

But for Moldovan students, teachers, doctors and patients, the real benefit is that it means there is more money for other important priorities, and that the project is literally helping to keep the lights on and the rooms warm.


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