Early childhood – from the moment of birth to the transition to school, is a unique phase in human life, when the foundations for health, learning, behavior and personal development are built. What happens to children during these early years has a long-lasting impact not only on their individual wellbeing throughout life, but also on the future of their communities and societies.
Child development is a complex process, shaped by the continuous interactions among the individual’s genes, the environment and child’s early experiences. Particularly important is the prenatal period and first 2-3 years of life, when human brain develops most rapidly and is most sensitive to external influences.
To thrive babies and young children need nurturing care from parents, families and communities – a stable environment of relationships which ensures child’s good health and nutrition, provides protection from adversities, involves human interactions that are responsive and emotionally supportive and offers diverse opportunities for exploration and learning. Children exposed to adversities during early years are most at risk of suboptimal development with lifelong implications for their health, learning and behavior.
Despite the national efforts many young children in Bulgaria are at risk of not developing to their full potential
Bulgaria has in place a number of policies and services to ensure the survival and development of young children. However, serious challenges remain. Poverty, poor nutrition, lack of responsive and stimulating caregiving, constrained access to quality health care and early education opportunities, stigma and discrimination continue to undermine the development of many children.
The country continues to have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the European Union (6.5 per 1,000 live births)
and as many as 8, 000 women without health insurance give birth each year, the majority of whom with very limited contacts with health professionals during pregnancy. Every year 8.5 - 9.5 % of the newborn babies are born prematurely or with low body weight, which in extreme cases may involve serious risk of future difficulties in their physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. Many children do not receive good nutrition or are exposed to harsh discipline, neglect or insufficient stimulation during their first years of life.