COVID-19 : How UNICEF is helping in Bulgaria
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The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is of a scale most people alive today have never experienced. Worldwide, the outbreak is claiming lives and livelihoods as health systems buckle, borders closed, and families struggle to stay afloat.
Communities across the globe are rising to the challenge – from health workers risking their lives to fight the virus, to governments introducing and implementing different measures on a daily basis, to people adjusting their lifestyles, to businesses adjusting and developing solutions, to children learning at home and to young people deploying innovative ways to share public health messages. Bulgaria and its people have not been spared by the pandemic.
Disruptions to society have had a heavy impact on children and young people: on their safety, their well-being, their future. Only by working together can we keep thousands of girls and boys – including the most vulnerable – healthy, safe and learning.
UNICEF in Bulgaria is providing a multidimensional response to support the Government, municipalities, NGOs, Business, and media in order to provide better results for children, especially the most vulnerable ones.
What is UNICEF in Bulgaria doing?
1. Keeping children (0-3) and pregnant women healthy
Through mobile phones, skype and Viber consultations, UNICEF is supporting home visiting services in Shumen and Sliven to continue providing information, guidance, counselling and support to pregnant women and families with children under 3 years of age. Through these services, in the month of March, parents of 1,146 children under 3 years received supportive information on health (including on COVID-19), breastfeeding and nutrition, responsive caregiving and on early learning.
In Sliven, in coordination with the regional health authorities, as of 3rd of April an emergency telephone line was opened (044 / 410 431). All families with young children from the district can call and receive information related to child health, development and care, access to services and COVID-19 prevention and psychological support is also provided. This line was opened in response to the increased need for information by parents of young children that was created by the suspension of both the national well-child care program and the prophylactic care for pregnant women.
2. Reaching the most vulnerable children with sanitation and hygiene
:: Protecting ourselves and others through proper handwashing and good hygiene practices is the most important practice that is needed to curb the spread of COVID-19 and never before has this been more important! However, for many children and families, basic hygiene facilities and resources remain out of reach.
:: To meet the needs of most vulnerable families with children in 3 regions, Montana, Sliven and Shumen, UNICEF will provide hygiene kits. The hygiene kits contain: masks, liquid soap and disinfection liquid for different surfaces at home. With this measure we will support 1,958 families and children.
3. Support for parents
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed our lives and the lives of our children. In this complex situation of physical isolation, many families and children are confused and scared. Therefore, reliable, simple and credible information is key to preventing infection and maintaining good mental health of children, young people and families.
As part of its response to the crisis, UNICEF through various channels constantly informs and supports parents, children, young people, pregnant and breastfeeding women and teachers.
:: An information hub has been developed on the UNICEF’s website and is updated regularly to provide advice and support on a daily basis. This is an important source of current information for parents and other care providers for children. UNICEF continues also to expand on a daily basis both the content and numbers of its online resources in support of parents of young children through the dedicated parenting site www.roditel.unicef.bg.
UNICEF ensures provision of current and correct information and is fighting myths and battling misinformation. In a close coordination with the World health organization (WHO), UNICEF distributes vital public health messages and advice on prevention and shares information on interventions aimed at slowing the transmission of the virus.
:: Through our digital campaign “Fun at Home” we have facilitated learning, play and shared educational resources that are valuable to children and their parents. We have reached more than 1.2 Million people with support in the care and early learning opportunities of their children through concrete examples of recreational and pedagogical activities that can be developed from home.
4. Keeping children learning
As schools closed, as one of the measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, parents, caregivers and educators responded quickly by finding new ways to keep children occupied at home and learning remotely. But not all girls and boys have access to the Internet, books or school supplies. The Ministry of education as of 9th of April indicated that about 10% of children did not access the online learning platforms.
:: UNICEF is working with partners to ensure access to distance learning, including to online education for the most vulnerable children. UNICEF will support 40 educational mediators who work in the most vulnerable communities in 22 municipalities. By providing financial resources that would allow educational mediators to intensify their work in support of distance learning we will help a minimum of 400 children to continue their education.
:: UNICEF will also support the National Campaign “Donate Old Devices to a New Beginning in Support of Education”, initiated by Center Amalipe aiming at collecting electronic devices for children from vulnerable groups. In support of Centre Amalipe, UNICEF will provide devices, and support proper disinfection and delivery of all devices to children and their parents.
:: In addition, through our partner Amalipe Centre we will provide support to 100 vulnerable families and their children to meet their most urgent needs.
:: An online interactive platform is being initiated that will facilitate learning and be an additional support for children with disabilities and special needs. Educational kits for more than 400 children (1-4 grade) will also be distributed.
:: UNICEF will also distribute special educational kits:: to support the early childhood development of more than 1200 children (2-6 years) from vulnerable families in the regions of Montana, Sliven and Shumen.
5. Providing peer-to-peer learning and information sharing between young people to support their mental health
:: UNICEF Bulgaria, together with a wide range of partners and young people, has launched the community-driven youth platform “U-Report” - joining the 10 million subscribers globally. Our immediate goal is to raise the awareness of young people and to support them through relevant services for psycho-emotional, protective, healthcare, education or social support. U-Report will continue its role as a platform for exchange, active participation and support beyond the current crisis.
:: UNICEF is supporting the active engagement of young people and empowering them to share, exchange their experience and help other peers in the current lockdown situation. By supporting the production of vlogs by popular youth influencers, the recording of audio podcasts by youth journalists, the creation of webinars and youth challenges by youth NGOs, we support the empowerment of youth as partners and leaders in the response to COVID-19
In the coming days we will continue to update on the support that UNICEF is providing in Bulgaria in response to the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and we will continue to adapt our programming to continue delivering better results for families and children.