UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Maria Guleghina visits vulnerable children in Bulgaria
Renowned opera singer sheds light on the situation of children fleeing the war in Ukraine and children with disabilities
SOFIA, 20 June 2022 – To mark World Refugee Day, soprano Maria Guleghina travelled to Bulgaria to raise awareness of the situation of children affected by the war in Ukraine and children with disabilities in care facilities.
Maria’s voice is a comfort to the many families who miss their homeland. I’m inspired to see the glimpse of hope in the children’s eyes we spoke with today. It’s our collective responsibility to reach all children being displaced by conflict and crises and ensure their access to education, protection, and other critical services that support their wellbeing and development now and in the future,
UNICEF Bulgaria Representative Christina de Bruin said.
The war in Ukraine caused more than 2 million children to flee the country and displaced 3 million internally since February. Around 325,000 Ukrainian citizens have entered Bulgaria in the first 100 days of war in Ukraine of which 115,000 received temporary protection, among them 40,000 children.
Guleghina, who was born in Ukraine, visited one of 32 UNICEF-UNHCR Blue Dots, safe spaces along border crossings that provide children and families with critical information, psycho-social and legal support services. For children, they provide a safe, welcoming space to rest, play and simply be a child. In Bulgaria, these hubs function in collaboration with the Bulgarian Red Cross, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria, and representatives from the refugee community.
I know what it means for your country to be at war. We should do something for peace, because our children need our help,
said Guleghina after listening to the stories of Ukrainian children and their families.
Guleghina, who experienced issues with mobility as a child, also visited a center for children with disabilities. Across Europe, at least 350,000 children live in institutional care, some of them children with disabilities whose parents and guardians are unable to care for them. In Bulgaria, around 10,000 children with disabilities and special needs are estimated to be out of school. UNICEF’s partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Regional Center for Support of the Process of Inclusive Education in Sofia established an online learning platform and a tool to help nonverbal children express themselves with symbols.
Once I was also born with a mobility difficulty, but my mom never gave up. With her support, not only was I able to walk, but I also danced, did gymnastics, and became an opera singer. My message to parents is to never give up,
Notes to editors:
For more info on how UNICEF is helping war affected families in Ukraine, see the country website https://www.unicef.org/ukraine/en