A subregional high-level conference on “Smart investment in strategies and partnerships to prevent and address violence against children” took place in Sofia on 27 -28 June. The experts identified a set of technical and multisectoral actions to prevent and respond to violence against children and build strong partnerships in the region of Europe and Central Asia. Regarding the situation in Bulgaria, the immediate recommendation is to commit to collect and analyze data on violence using the most comprehensive and systematic approach. Additionally, a robust support to parents to continue to raise their children in a safe and caring environment needs to be ensured and supported by all relevant authorities and international organizations.
The event gathered more than 150 experts and representatives of state institutions from 10 countries in the region of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, as well as renowned academics from Ireland, the USA and others. The event was jointly organized by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the State Agency for Child Protection, UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO), Child Protection Hub (www.childhub.org), supported by Terre des hommes Foundation and Association "Childhood without Violence".
According to available global statistics, around 1 billion children worldwide annually are victims to some form of violence – physical, sexual, or emotional. The economic losses of violence against children are estimated to be up to 7 trillion dollars, or 8% of the gross domestic product. If a child is exposed to more than 4 adverse childhood experiences in his or her childhood, then that child becomes 2 times more likely to have heart disease, 4 times more likely to engage in risky alcohol consumptions, 6 times more likely to have early pregnancy in teen years, 6 times more likely to start smoking and 20 times more likely to commit a crime and go to jail, as well as 49 times more likely to attempt suicide. These are some of the facts, data and findings presented during the regional conference “Smart investment in strategies and partnerships to prevent and address violence against children”.
In Bulgaria, there is no unified data on cases of violence against children (including child abuse, exploitation and neglect) and they are collected by different institutions and under different criteria. In 2018, the Agency for Social Assistance received 1,106 reports of violence against children, clarified Mr. Biser Petkov, Minister of Labour and Social policy – out of these, 347 were opened as cases, after which it was found that these children are at risk and measures have been taken. In parallel, the General Prosecutor's Office reported that 2,379 children aged 14-18 and 1,941 children under 14 were victims of crime. According to data from the Ministry of Education and Science, for the 2017/2018 academic year there were 3,616 cases of aggression at school.