Support the team of the future – children in Bulgaria
UNICEF launches a campaign to advocate for the right of every child to education, care, and protection from violence
Sofia, 15 November 2022 Days before World Cup 2022 kicks off, UNICEF Bulgaria launches a national campaign titled ‘Support the Team of the Future – Children’. No matter which nation we support in the World Cup, in a world that is more divided than ever, football has the power to unite. There can only be one team when it comes to children's rights. This is the team we can all stand behind – Children. Every child has the right to care, education and protection from violence. This is also UNICEF’s key global message around World Children’s Day on 20 November, which this year coincides with the start of the World Cup.
In Bulgaria, two UNICEF National Ambassadors become the most prominent celebrity faces of the campaign – actress Elena Petrova and musician Vladimir Ampov-Grafa.
With this campaign, UNICEF will draw the public attention to three key topics – early childhood development, quality inclusive education for children with disabilities & special needs and protection from violence for every child. They will be among the UN Children’s Fund’s main priorities in the new 5-year country programme in Bulgaria starting in 2023.
The first years of a child’s life are crucial for their development. For every child to get the best start in life, UNICEF works for increased access to early childhood interventions so that developmental difficulties are identified at the earliest possible and support is provided to children and families. In Bulgaria, it is still weakly developed and is rather isolated than a systematic practice. Specialists in Bulgaria more often work with older children and parents of children with disabilities or developmental difficulties tend to be excluded from the process. UNICEF data shows that almost 60% of the parents of children with disabilities indicate that they haven’t witnessed their child’s doctor filling out a questionnaire linked with their child's development.
UNICEF trains doctors and other health professionals to track children's development during the first 2 years of their life in order to be included in an early intervention service in case developmental difficulties are identified. The UN Children’s Fund also trains professionals to support children, with the active participation of parents, at home, in the nursery and in kindergarten. With the help of donors and partners, UNICEF will continue to work and insist on building a national early intervention system so that all families with children from their birth to 2 years of age receive timely professional information about their child's development and timely, coordinated, evidence-based, and quality community support.
Quality inclusive education for children with disabilities and special needs is also a focus in UNICEF's work in Bulgaria. The estimated number of children living with disabilities in Bulgaria is 32,000. Around 10,000 of them are estimated to be out of school or kindergarten and almost 15,000 of the children with special needs are nonverbal and experience difficulties communicating. UNICEF developed Cboard, a free-of-charge mobile application aiding communication with symbols. It gives children who cannot speak the opportunity to communicate with their families, teachers and people around them. The application is adapted in Bulgarian and can be edited and tailored for the needs of each child by adding new symbols and content. UNICEF will continue training parents, teachers and specialists to use Cboard extensively in their daily communication and the education of children with special educational needs.
UNICEF works actively for the prevention and protection of children from violence. We focus onreducing violence at home, in school, in the community and online because it threatens children’s health and emotional well-being and can seriously affect their future prospects. One in every two children and young people (47%) has experienced some form of violence under the age of 18 years, with emotional violence being the most common type of violence reported (45.9%), followed by physical violence (31.2%), sexual violence (15.6%) and neglect (10.5%). Violence has been most commonly experienced by children at school (38.3%), closely followed by in the community (37.6%) and at home (30.9%). 1 in 7 children reported being a victim of online bullying and harassment, especially on social media sites.
- 1,563 were the reports for child abuse in 2021, which the multidisciplinary teams under the Violence Coordination Mechanism worked on.
- 516 alerts for a child at risk were recorded in the first half of 2022.
- 337 of them were for child abuse.
- 15,694 reports of online violence against children were received at the National Centre for Safe Internet (2021)
UNICEF works for a systematic change and improvement of the policies at the national level. UNICEF created special services in 3 regions in the country (Montana, Sofia, Shumen) and are developing the model to provide specialized support to children, who experienced violence, and their parents – Child Advocacy and Support Centres ‘Zona ZaKrila’. At ‘Zona ZaKrila’, children and families are offered crisis interventions as different specialists provide social, legal and psychological support under one roof.
To continue and upscale the programmes in these three key areas, UNICEF relies on donors’ support. Everyone can become BLAGODETEL and help the most vulnerable boys and girls in Bulgaria receive care, education and protection from violence.
One can support UNICEF children programmes in the following ways:
- Monthly donations of BGN 5 by sending SMS with text 5 to number 1021. VAT and fees are not charged to subscribers of all mobile operators.
- Online at dari.unicef.bg
In addition to UNICEF Bulgaria National Ambassadors Elena Petrova, Sonya Yoncheva and Vladimir Ampov-Grafa, other celebrities who support the campaign are the Olympic champions in rhythmic gymnastics (the ‘Golden girls of Bulgaria’), Polly Genova, Alek Aleksiev, Niki Kanchev, Ralitsa Paskaleva, Daniel Petkanov, Slavi Panayotov, Boyko Krastanov, Iskra Donova, Evelin Kostova, Radina Kardzhilova, Radina Borshosh, etc.
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential. And we never give up. UNICEF, for every child.