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Bulgaria has achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals, and in 2007 was admitted as a member state of the European Union (EU).
Issues facing children in Bulgaria
- The overall poverty rate is 16 per cent, though it is higher for the Roma community.
- In areas with predominantly Roma or Turkish minority populations, under-five mortality rates are twice the national average. The primary causes of childhood death are accidents and injuries.
- Just 10 to 15 per cent of children under six months of age receive even a part of their diet from breastfeeding, with consequent negative effects on nutrition, growth and development. There have been few efforts to educate women on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.
- Vaccination coverage is above 96 per cent, except among Roma children. As many as 5 per cent of Roma children have not been immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases.
- HIV/AIDS incidence is low, but there is little public awareness of how the virus is spread, especially in rural communities. There has been a recent increase in hepatitis C incidence.
- Primary school enrolment rates are above 95 per cent, except among the Roma community. Nearly three quarters of school dropouts are Roma children.
Activities and results for children
- A successful salt iodization programme has all but eliminated iodine-deficiency disorders, setting an example for other countries in the region.
- A Health Strategy for Disadvantaged Members of Ethnic Minorities was adopted to remedy the widespread exclusion of Roma from health-care services.
- After floods devastated large sections of the country in summer 2005, UNICEF worked closely with the Civil Protection Agency to deliver clean water, sanitation equipment and other emergency assistance to affected areas.
- Two more maternity hospitals have been certified as ’baby friendly‘. These institutions emphasize safe deliveries and promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.
- Bulgaria is slowly developing alternatives to institutionalization for orphans and children with special needs. The official number of children in institutions fell from 10,284 in 2004 to 9,525 in 2005. New government-supported alternatives to institutionalization have allowed more than 1,000 children to be placed with relatives or foster families rather than in institutions.
- The State Agency for Child Protection worked with UNICEF in training 65 teachers and 55 other professionals to spot and prevent violence among children.