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The Situation in Romania 2014

ImageEvery few years I try and compile some general statistics that give you an idea of the situation in Romania. I have compiled the following from various news reports, surveys, studies and government reports. I hope this provides you with a window through which you can understand a little bit of the context in which we serve, the challenges we face, and the reasons for doing what we do.[1]

While there may be progress, development or improvement in some areas, I present here a perspective from the lower class and the most vulnerable. Our hope and prayer is that their situation will change than they will experience a better future.

The Government

Our vulnerable friends’ experience with the government is listening to the campaign promises and then waiting another four years to see them again.

Street protests against economic hardship, corruption and government authoritarianism in 2012 led to the collapse of the governing coalition. In addition, the government has gone through the turbulence of repeated attempts to impeach the president Traian Basescu. We will have a new president this year. Elections will be held in November. Only recently has the investment grade risen after years of political turbulence. Hopefully, a semblance of stability will continue even in the face of regional conflicts and the harsh rhetoric that has ensued.

Corruption

Romania placed 69 out of 177 countries on the corruption index.[2] The Romanian parliament voted to exempt themselves and several other government officials from anti-corruption laws, which refer to actions such as abuse of office, bribery, and conflicts of interest by public officials, the law would no longer apply to them. According to the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office (DNA), 28 members of Parliament have been convicted or are on trial for various corruption charges. In addition, 100 mayors and vice-mayors are being investigated for such crimes as awarding contracts to family and friends.[3] In our daily experience, there are still frequent implicit requests for bribes by medical practitioners, government officials, police officers and teachers.

NATO

Romania is a strategic partner in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and it has provided significant contributions of troops, equipment, and other assistance in Afghanistan and Kosovo.[4] Romania has agreed to host elements of the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach to European missile defense in the 2015 timeframe. The two countries signed a ballistic missile defense agreement in 2011 allowing the deployment of U.S. personnel, equipment, and anti-missile interceptors to Romania over the next five years. The United States and Romania also have adopted the bilateral Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century. The strength of NATO is now being tested in Romania and other countries on the alliance’s eastern border, as it faces the crisis in Ukraine.

The Economy

Picture2Romania’s original target date for adopting the Euro was 2015, but the president stated that it was unfeasible. Romania’s GDP is between 50% and 55% lower than the Eurozone’s average.[5] For the past few years, the government has continually overestimated economic outputs, resulting in budget deficits. But in the first quarter of 2013, Romania’s economy began to expand, although less than the government forecast. It grew by 3.5% in 2013 – due to a bumper harvest – with a predicted 4.2% growth in 2014.[6]The country’s inflation rate in 2013 was 4.4%, Europe’s fastest, but is forecast to fall to 3.5% on average in 2014 as gradual government deregulation boosts energy prices. Currently, the country is authorizing and protesting policies concerning gold mining and land and water fracking. S&P recently upgraded Romania to investment grade after the economic crisis of 2008.[7]

Picture3The average individual income is less than 350 Euros a month. In 2014, the minimum wage is being increased in two stages to RON 900, from the current RON 800 (USD$245). After several years of strong growth in the 2000s, Romania has been hit hard by the 2009 global recession and the Eurozone crisis, which have revealed systemic weaknesses in its economy.

Romania relied on a 20 billion-euro loan from the IMF between 2009 and 2011 to help it emerge from a two-year recession and withstand external shocks from the global financial crisis. As part of the loan agreement, the government cu public sector wages by 25% and raised the value-added tax from 19% to 24%.

Picture4The official unemployment rate is 7.2%.[8] The lack of jobs is one of the primary drivers of people migrating out of the country. Still, there is an estimated 2.3 million Romanians working on the black market, more then a third of those legally employed.[9]

In Galati, ArcelorMittal Sidex, the steel factory and largest employer, has not registered a profit since 2008 and has laid-off 19,000 workers in the past 11 years. So, the economic outlook for Galati is not great.[10]

Agriculture

Picture525 years have passed since the fall of communism and the restoration of property confiscated by the communist regime to their owners is still in process. Approximately 3 million hectares of arid land out of the 12 million has not been restituted, and almost 5 million of the hectares are split up in sections smaller than 1 hectare. This shows a lack of a united vision and efficient planning of agricultural land.[11] So, although Romania has the capacity to feed 80 million people, it continues to import most of its food. The question remains: if the land was managed efficiently, who would cultivate it? The average yields are less than half of that of the EU. For its agricultural development, 300 million Euros are being loaned to Romania.[12]

Poverty

Absolute poverty declined from 35.9 percent in 2000 to 5.7 percent in 2008.[13] Still, Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest state. Some 9.5 million people, or roughly half of the population, are receiving welfare, unemployment, housing and central heating aid, or other supplemental benefits on a monthly basis. That equates to a national expense of $3.2 billion a year.[14]

One-fourth of young adults (ages 18 to 24 years old) live in relative poverty, the highest rate in the EU. 40% of this age group are at risk of social exclusion.(DPC report).[15]Because of their lack of buying-power, youth are forced to live with their parents into adulthood, thus increasing the family size. About 45% of those with full-time jobs still live with their parents, compared with 38% in the EU.[16]

Emigration and Migrant Orphans

Shortly after the 1989 so-called “revolution,” Ryszard Kapuściński said that the people abolished the dictator, not so that they could turn to the building of democracy, but so that they could open up the borders and leave.[17] According to the latest census that was taken in 2011, Romania lost 2.68 million inhabitants in the last 10 years.[18] The greatest loss of population in all of Romania was in Galati, which dropped 22.56% – from 298,589 in 2002 to 231,204 in 2011. It is now the 5th largest city in the country.

Romanians abroad are expected to send about USD 3.6 billion to their home country in 2013, making it the third largest volume of remittances to a developing country in the region (behind Poland and Russia), according to a recent World Bank report. The amount sent to Romania in 2013 is expected to be almost flat on 2012, and smaller than in 2011, when it reached USD 4.5 billion, as well as from 2010, when it stood at USD 4.9 billion.[19]

Over the past year, there was much negative press in the UK as they removed travel restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians. Although they expected to be overwhelmed by the flood of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants, the total of 140,000 citizens from Romania and Bulgaria employed in Britain between January and March represented a decline of 4,000 when compared with the 144,000 in work in the last three months of 2013.[20] Still, the stigma on Romania immigrants remains in many circles.

Picture6According to the Soros Foundation, Romania has about 350,000 children who are left without parents. The Romania Authority for Child Protection’s figure is much lower, stating that at least 82,000 children have at least one parent that has gone to work abroad. There have been reports of children as young as 12 killing themselves after their parents left.[21] Some of these children also suffer from mental illnesses such as depression and often have trouble in school. Many drop out of school. Additionally, some may turn to crime and drugs to cope with their issues. Recently, new laws have been passed in Romania which will place fines up to 2,500 Euros for parents who do not leave children with appropriate guardians.[22]

Children in Poverty

In the 1990s, Romania had over 6.6 million children. Today, due to a lower birth rate, there are 3.7 million children.[23] As the birth rate falls, the life expectancy has increased, resulting in there being 1 child to every 2 adults in the 1990s to 1 child for every 4 adults today.

Over half of Romanian children are at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion, and one third lives in persistent poverty.[24] The rate is highest in families with many children or with a single parent. About one in 10 children live in homes with no working adult. The rate of material deprivation is 3 times higher than the EU.[25]

Poverty exists even where parents are working. One in three children live in poverty even where parents are working. One in every five families that have working adults still lives in poverty, and this rate is rising.[26]

About 12% of rural households have no income other than the state subsidy for children. [27] 10% of these children go to bed hungry and 12% are missing school so that they can work.

Sex Workers/ Child Trafficking

Girls and boys left without their parents are extremely vulnerable to being trafficked. Romania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Romania has become a major transit for the sale of people into the European Union. Victims as young as 12 years old are trafficked into Romania from destinations as far-reaching as Honduras, Afghanistan, the Congo, and China. Once they reach Romania, many of these victims are assigned for passage beyond into Western Europe. While Romanian law officially prohibits all forms of human trafficking, the country’s strategic geographic location — a crossroads between East and West — makes it a source, transit and destination country for the people trade. The country’s 2007 admission into the European Union brought more relaxed border regulations and enhanced its attraction for international human traffickers.[28]

According to the US State Department, Romanians represent a significant source of trafficking victims in Europe.[29] Romanian men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, domestic service, hotels, and manufacturing, as well as forced begging and theft in European countries. Children likely represent at least one-third of Romanian trafficking victims. Traffickers recruiting and exploiting Romanian citizens were overwhelmingly Romanian themselves. Frequently, traffickers first exploited victims within Romania before transporting them abroad for forced prostitution or labor. The Romanian government reported increasing sophistication amongst Romanian criminal groups, including the transportation of victims to different countries in Europe in order to test law enforcement weaknesses in each. The Government of Romania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government reported the identification of 1,043 victims in 2011.[30] The government made strong prosecution efforts during the reporting period: the number of anti-trafficking prosecutions pursued was amongst the highest in Europe (480 prosecutions with 276 convicted in 2011), and built on partnerships with governments in destination countries to increase accountability for trafficking offenders. The government also conducted creative anti-trafficking prevention efforts to sensitize the population to trafficking in persons. Nevertheless, services available to protect and assist trafficking victims were very weak. For a third consecutive year, the government provided no funding to anti-trafficking NGOs, imperiling civil society’s victim protection.

There are high numbers of Romanians caught in the commercial sex.[31] Although the government proposed legislation to legalize prostitution, it was not passed. Still, sex is sold on street corners, truck stops and the many erotic message parlors throughout the country.

Orphans and Child Abandonment:

In 2001, Romania placed a moratorium on international adoptions, and officially banned the practice four years later, citing widespread corruption in adoption practices across borders. Romania has no formal national assistance program for orphans after they leave state institutions. Most must leave at age 18, when they become legal adults. Few of the country’s 75,000 orphans know how to managemoney, find an apartment, prepare food or search for a job. Many end up homeless and turn to crime, like prostitution, when they age out.[32]

Picture7The number of children abandoned in maternity wards dropped from 5130 in 2003 to 1315 in 2010.[33]28% of children abandoned are Roma. NGOs claimed that the official statistics underestimated the problem, and that many children living in state institutions were never officially recognized as abandoned. Poverty, child marriage and mobility are the primary causes of child abandonment. But most potential adoptive parents refuse to adopt Roma children.[34]

According to the Ministry of Labor, Family, and Social Protection, there were 63,847 children in state care. Of them 39,212 were in professional foster care, 1,878 in alternative care (with guardian), and 22,757 in public or private residential care.

Abortion

Although contraception is accessible and inexpensive, the abortion rate remains high, with 52.7 reported abortions for every 100 live births. Still, this rate is 7 times lower than the past two decades.[35]

Children on the Streets

According to the Directorate for the Protection of Children, at the end of September there were 1400 homeless children nationwide. NGOs working with homeless children believed there were actually two or three times that number. Some estimate that as many as 2,000 children live in tunnels that run under the city.[5]  The collapse of communism, which negatively impacted the economy has forced children into poverty. As a result, these children resort to begging and stealing to survive.[5] Romania is aiming to end its reputation for neglect of children and is hoping to close large orphanages. As a result, children are returning to violent homes or ending up on the streets.

Picture8Children living on the streets suffer from social exclusion, and life on the streets usually results in serious health problems, chronic undernutrition, lack of schooling, illiteracy (around 50%), sexual and physical abuse, drug abuse, discrimination, and a diminished access to social services.

Education and School Drop-out Rates

Child Protective Services states that 56,000 children are not enrolled in the school system. Others, however, estimate the number at 100,000 children between 6 and 16 years of age that have dropped out of school.[36]

Children living in rural communities are at greater risk of abandoning school. Also, with the state raising the mandatory grade that all children need to complete to 10, the drop-out rate has risen.

Child Abuse and Child Labor

Child abuse and neglect continued to be serious problems, and public awareness remained poor. The media reported several severe cases of abuse or neglect in family homes, foster care, and child welfare institutions. For example, within a period of six months, child welfare services identified 5,665 cases of child abuse, of which 570 involved physical abuse; 716 emotional abuse; 292 sexual abuse; 63 work exploitation; 24 sexual exploitation; 40 exploitation to commit criminal offenses; and 3,960 neglect. Of the reported cases, 2,732 were boys and 2,933 were girls. Most cases of abuse occurred in the family.

The government has not established a mechanism to identify and treat abused and neglected children and their families.

Romania law criminalizes adults who force children to work. Still, there is a high incidence of child begging, and the government is struggling to find and prosecute companies or individuals that illegally employ minors for work. The punishment is 7 years in prison. In 2008, 1072 cases of child labor had been reported, from which only 125 had been confirmed. In 2010, the Authority for Child Protection stated that there were only 412 children exploited by work. Although this number, as with the others the I present here, is hard to nail down, Save the Children Centers received 2,405 children who were exploited by labor.[37] An older report states that 70,000 children needed to work instead of going to school, of which only a third who work on the streets are literate.

According to Save the Children, 86% of children are scolded by their teachers when they make mistakes 33% are ridiculed and 7% are beaten by their teachers. 57% of children suffer from anxiety, withdrawal, insecurity and stress at school.

38% of parents admit to physically abusing their children and 63% of children confess being beaten by their parents, while most parents think that smacking and yanking their ears is appropriate.[38]

According to the Authority for Child Protection, the rate of child abuse has increase by 7% from 11,232 in 2010 to 12,074 in 2012. This includes emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation through labor or crime.

Domestic Violence

Picture9Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continues to be a serious problem, according to NGOs and other sources. The government did not effectively address it. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows police intervention in such cases. Amendments to the domestic violence law adopted in March 2012 provide for the issuance of restraining orders upon the victim’s request and for the payment by the abuser of some expenses, such as medical and trial expenses, or the cost of the victim’s accommodation in a shelter. While the criminal code imposes stronger sanctions for violent offenses committed against family members than for similar offenses committed against others, the courts prosecuted very few cases of domestic abuse. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when alleged victims dropped their charges or reconciled with the alleged abusers. In cases with strong evidence of physical abuse, the court can prohibit the abusive spouse from returning home. The law also permits police to penalize spouses with fines of 100 lei to 3,000 lei ($26.70 to $893) for various abusive acts. During 2012, 1,857 persons reported being victims of domestic violence, and 440 persons were sent to trial for domestic violence.[39]

Drug Abuse

Compared to other EU countries, Romania has a low rate of drug use. Still, the use of psychoactive substances by youth under 16 years of age doubled in just four years. Heroine is the most commonly used drug, followed by marijuana.

The Elderly

Picture1042% of the elderly are at risk of poverty, which means having an income 60% below the country’s national average.[40]

670,000 elder people and children with healthcare problems receiving government assistance.[41] This is a rise from 80,000 Romanians receiving social benefits in 1992. The increase is due to citizens’ heightened awareness of government benefits.

Divorce

5.2 children per 1,000 are affected by the divorce of their parents. Where the divorce rate is declining in other European countries, it is rising in Romania. This is partially because marriage is still commonly practiced.

Those with Disabilities and Mental Illnesses

EU funding of at least 24 million euros is propping up 50 residential institutions in Romania. Thousands of people with disabilities were being ‘warehoused’ in such institutions, segregated from society and subjected to inhumane conditions.[42]

Today, the majority of children with disabilities (over 95%) do not live in state institutions. Still, the lack of school participation for children with disabilities is seven times higher than other children.

There have also been reports that some personnel in state institutions mistreated abandoned children with physical disabilities and subjected children in state orphanages to lengthy incarceration as punishment for misbehavior.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS wrought devastation in Romania in the 1980s and 1990s. The victims were mostly small children infected in hospitals. Poor sterilization facilities and dubious medical practices, such as infected blood transfusions, were largely to blame. Those that did not die were often ostracized, and many were abandoned. Antiretroviral treatment is free and available to those who need it. Death rates have plummeted. In fact, Romania is now often cited as an example to other poor countries with major HIV/AIDS problems.

Yet a substantial number of Romanians with HIV still don’t know it. The generation infected in the 1980s and 1990s is now at reproductive age, and new cases are still appearing across the country, often years after infection. Health workers say sexual transmission is now the most common method.

According to official statistics, 11, 581 patients diagnosed with HIV and AIDS were registered as of December, with 741 new cases reported between January and December. Societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred, and many persons with the disease dropped out of school due to stigmatization, discrimination, or disease. In December, on International HIV Day, the National Union of Organizations of Persons with HIV/AIDS launched a campaign to increase awareness of HIV infection.[43]

Medical Care

Picture11Romania spends just 5 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, about half the percentage of GDP Western European countries spend. 30% of medical professionals, about 10,000 people, have migrated out of Romania in order to work for better pay in western countries.[44]

Only those with employment or who pay for health insurance have access to doctors. Medical care is supposed to be free for children. However, the children are often sent to the pharmacies to buy the necessary medication. Bribes across Romania accounted for $1 million a day in 2005, according to a World Bank report; more recent estimates are not available.

Although the infant mortality rate decreased from 26.9 in 2990 to 9 deaths per 1000 in 2012, it is still high – the highest in the EU and twice as high as the EU average. Romania also continues to suffer from transmittable diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. Tuberculosis is six times higher than the EU average, with Romania representing 25% of all TB cases in Europe – 15% of which are children.

Roma

Eight percent of Romanian children live in absolute poverty, compared to 35 percent among Roma children. 40% of Romani children are undernourished.[45] 75 percent of Roma children do not complete the 8th grade. Roma children are significantly behind in education compared to non-Roma.[46] Romani children were effectively segregated from non-Romani students and subject to discriminatory treatment.[47]

Picture12Discrimination against Roma continued to be a major problem. Romani groups complained that police brutality, including beatings, and harassment were routine. Both domestic and international media and observers widely reported societal discrimination against Roma. Major human rights problems included police and gendarme mistreatment and harassment of detainees and Roma, including the death of three Roma at the hands of police and gendarmes.[48]

Observers estimated that there were between 1.8 and 2.5 million Roma in the country, constituting approximately 10 percent of the total population. However, the preliminary results of the most recent official census, taken in fall 2011, counted 619,000 Roma, or 3.2 percent of the population.

Stereotypes and discriminatory language regarding Roma were widespread. Journalists and several senior government officials made statements that were viewed as discriminatory by members of the Romani community; the CNCD fined some individuals as a result. Anti-Roma banners, chants, and songs, particularly at large televised sporting events, were prevalent and widespread.[49]

Romani communities were largely excluded from administrative and legal systems. According to surveys in 2007 and 2008, the latest data available on this matter, between 1.9 and 6 percent of Roma lacked identity cards, compared to 1.5 percent of non-Roma. The lack of identity documents excluded Roma from participating in elections, receiving social benefits, accessing health insurance, securing property documents, and participating in the labor market. Roma were disproportionately unemployed or underemployed.

The legal age of marriage is 18, although girls as young as 15 may legally marry in certain circumstances. Illegal child marriage was reportedly common within certain social groups, particularly the Roma. There were no public policies to prevent child marriages or government institutions that dealt with the problem.

Footnotes:

[1] Some of the statistics are up to two years old as not all statistics are measured annually.

[2]http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/results/

[3]http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/363834#ixzz2suyzlZgf

[4] http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35722.htm

[5]http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/2-13122012-AP/EN/2-13122012-AP-EN.PDF

[6]http://country.eiu.com/romania

[7]http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-16/s-p-upgrades-romania-to-investment-grade-after-six-years.html

[8]http://countryeconomy.com/unemployment/romania

[9]http://www.ziare.com/economie/buget/munca-la-negru-in-romania-statul-pierde-18-miliarde-de-euro-pe-an-1166672

[10]http://www.gandul.info/financiar/miliardarul-lakshmi-mittal-la-negocieri-cu-ponta-si-basescu-miza-uriasa-a-discutiilor-de-la-bucuresti-10882299

[11] http://www.anrp.gov.ro

[12]http://www.neurope.eu/article/eib-provides-loan-rural-development-romania

[13] http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2011/11/15515952/romania-country-partnership-strategy-progress-report-period-fy2009-13

[14]The Adevarul newspaper

[15]Eurostat

[16] Eurostat 28

[17] Behr, Kiss the Hand that You Cannot Bite, xiii.

[18]http://www.insse.ro/cms/files/publicatii/Romania%20in%20cifre_%202012.pdf

[19]http://www.romania-insider.com/world-bank-remittances-sent-by-romanians-abroad-flat-at-usd-3-6-bln-in-2013/107414/

[20]https://uk.news.yahoo.com/fewer-romanian-bulgarian-immigrants-britain-130842089.html

[21] Stracansky, Pavol, “Bringing Up a ‘Lost Generation'”.

[22] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/3665646.stm

[23] Eurostat 7

[24] Eurostat

[25] xviii UE27

[26] Eurostat footnote 11

[27] https://ro.stiri.yahoo.com/12–dintre-copiii-de-la-%C8%9Bar%C4%83-au-lipsit-de-la-%C8%99coal%C4%83-pentru-a-munci-.html

[28]http://edition.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/07/batstone.romania.sex.trade/index.html

[29]http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/192597.pdf

[30] http://anitp.mai.gov.ro/ro/docs/studii/analiza%20victime%202012.pdf

[31]http://tampep.eu/documents/TAMPEP%202009%20European%20Mapping%20Report.pdf

[32] Meghan Collins Sullivan, ‘Painful Lessons from Romania’s Decade-Old Adoption Ban’, Time, March 15, 2013.

[33]http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/iwho/documents/childabandonment/romania/brochure.pdf

[34]http://www.9am.ro/stiri-revista-presei/International/217928/Majoritatea-copiilor-abandonati-in-Europa-Centrala-si-de-Est-sunt-romi.html

[35]http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/ab-romania.html

[36]http://www.stiriong.ro/ong/servicii-sociale/patriarhul-daniel-predica-din-biserica

[37]http://www.ziare.com/stiri/eveniment/2-400-de-copii-exploatati-prin-munca-au-ajuns-in-grija-salvati-copiii-1021841

[38]http://www.salvaticopiii.ro/upload/p0002000100000002_comunicat_mapa_studiu.pdf

[39]http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper

[40]http://old.econtext.ro/dosar–2/analiza/pensionarii-romaniei-printre-cei-mai-saraci-din-ue-vezi-cati-pensionari-se-zbat-in-mizerie-in-romania-si-in-celelalte-state-europene.html

[41]http://www.insp.gov.ro/cnepss/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/CNPV.doc

[42]http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2014/04/europe-hidden-shame-2014414124139195247.html

[43]http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper

[44]http://www.ibtimes.com/medical-leave-romanian-doctors-fleeing-poor-pay-corruption-western-europe-1557178

[45] http://www.copii.ro/Files/2014-02-03_Anexa1_HG_Strategie_protectia_copilului.pdf

[46] http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/ECAEXT/EXTROMA/0,,contentMDK:23208277~pagePK:64168445~piPK:64168309~theSitePK:615987,00.html

[47] http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130422/unicef-eu-call-further-progress-roma-inclusion-romania

[48]http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper

[49]http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper

 

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