Strengthening health services in rural Romania

Despite recent efforts to strengthen the national healthcare system, health services in Romania still struggle to respond to the specific needs of communities and address the challenges posed by demographic changes in the country. Romania is one of the least urbanised countries in the EU, with 45% of the population living in rural areas. In some countryside towns, the availability of public services remains scarce and access to healthcare is difficult. Moreover, the country shares a border with Ukraine and has thus been a transit and destination country for people fleeing the Russia-Ukraine international armed conflict. People displaced from Ukraine are facing unique obstacles when navigating the Romanian health system.

In line with its continuous efforts to strengthen strained health services and ensure that everyone has access to healthcare, the Romanian Red Cross scaled-up its outreach activities with two new projects in 2023: the “Health Caravan” and “Health Promotion Centres”.

A group of people waiting to be received by the Health Caravan. © Romanian Red Cross

The first project started in August 2022, with the first Health Caravan activity in June 2023, with the financial support of the French Red Cross, evolving from a similar project that was successfully implemented throughout Romania since 2021. Four totally equipped mobile medical cabinets move around 14 counties to provide free medical consultations directly within communities – serving both Romanian citizens living in remote areas and people who have been displaced from Ukraine and settled in the country.

The Caravan is run by a multidisciplinary team of specialist doctors, nurses and Romanian Red Cross volunteers. The composition varies in each county depending on the needs pre-identified in the ‘Community Needs Analyses’, which are always carried out with the support of members of the community and local health professionals. The Health Caravan’s doctors and nurses can assess people’s health through basic medical tests and can provide consultations in general medicine, paediatrics, gynaecology, ophthalmology, dentistry and other specialisations.

“The Health Caravan is a large-scale project for populations in rural areas that we have adapted to also support people from Ukraine who now live in Romania. We want to help give them confidence, hope and useful information that will make it easier for them to settle in the country. We are also strongly committed to improving the quality of life of Romanian citizens in disadvantaged areas,” says Raluca Cătălina Buzea, Health Programme Manager at the Romanian Red Cross.

In some cases, the Caravan teams have detected unidentified pathologies and even life-threatening diseases in time, such as cancer, heart attacks, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, guiding patients towards the most appropriate treatment and services.

Following the implementation of this project, the Romanian Red Cross identified the need to further increase health services for the population beyond the mobile services delivered by the Health Caravans. With support from the French Red Cross, they opened six Health Promotion Centres in different areas of the country that provide free medical services and counselling to all, and specific facilities to ease the additional barriers faced by people from Ukraine.

A Romanian Red Cross team working in a Health caravan. © Romanian Red Cross

One of the key challenges that people displaced from Ukraine face in Romania is access to health services due to the language barrier and the fact that they are not registered with a general practitioner. In these centres, they can access general practitioners, but also specialists such as paediatricians, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, dentists or nutritionists. They can have their blood pressure and blood sugar tested, as well as get an electrocardiogram or abdominal ultrasound. There are Ukrainian and Russian translators at the centres.

“Here, we don’t only offer medical services, but also a glimmer of hope and support for those who need it. We are proud to inaugurate the sixth Health Centre in the country and to show the world that in difficult times, humanity knows no boundaries,” said Camelia Șucu, Romanian Red Cross President on the opening day of the sixth centre in Salaj in November 2023.

In the Health Promotion Centres, both adults and children can access mental health services and receive psychological counselling. This new area of activity for the Romanian Red Cross was developed based on the identified needs of the population. In addition, Romanian Red Cross volunteers and staff organise psychosocial support activities, such as art or dancing classes in their 3 multicultural centres. They also help people to strengthen the life-skills that enhance coping methods and support integration, such as recognizing emotions, facing loss and grief, stress and sadness, improving well-being through recreative activities.

These initiatives not only address immediate healthcare needs but also contribute to the resilience and well-being of communities facing diverse challenges. These services are people-centred, as they respond to the preferences and needs of these communities.

Basic information

Activity name

Health Caravan and Health Promotion Centres






Romanian Red Cross and French Red Cross

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