Pandemic, war and homeless children: how UNICEF helped children in the past year

Interview with Christina de Bruin, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria

Майка и син, подкрепени в създадения от УНИЦЕФ Център за подкрепа на деца и семейства "Синя точка"
UNICEF Bulgaria/2022/Maria Milkova
01 July 2022

Another wave of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the ensuing humanitarian crisis have left millions of children around the world homeless. The health, education and well-being of hundreds of thousands more children have been at risk. To fight child poverty, various campaigns of UNICEF Bulgaria and their benefactors reached over 13 thousand Bulgarian children and 5 thousand parents. A large part of their efforts was also directed towards refugee children from Ukraine who arrived in Bulgaria.

Growing up healthy and strong is the right of every child. To be encouraged, protected and educated too. UNICEF has been working and advocating for rights for every child more than 75 years. But in 2021, their task is proving harder than ever.

Christina de Bruin, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria:

"The past year has been extremely challenging for all children around the world. Because of the pandemic, rising poverty levels, armed conflicts and mass displacement. UNICEF works in 190 countries. We have been in many conflict areas, but we have not seen such massive and rapid displacement of children since the organization was created. That is, since the Second World War."

To help as many children as possible, UNICEF is making a tremendous effort. They work mostly with children at risk of poverty, social exclusion or abandonment. Children with disabilities, victims of violence or without access to education.

Christina de Bruin, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria:

“The European Child Guarantee project, for example, was set up to reduce child poverty. In a year and a half we have reached more than 13,000 Bulgarian children, 5,000 parents and 700 professionals. We improved the quality of foster care services for families with young children and the quality of early intervention services for children with disabilities and developmental difficulties. We have also expanded access to inclusive pre-school education."

As part of the organization's work in the past year, UNICEF has also launched two campaigns aimed to shed light on issues and raise funds to address them. The first concerns children's digital literacy and the second their mental health.

Christina de Bruin, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria:

"The COVID19 pandemic had a huge impact on the mental health of children around the world. Mostly because of isolation they endure it much more severely. In the few minutes that we are talking to you, at least one adolescent risks falling into depression or even committing suicide. We should create a platform and a mobile app to support children's mental health. We have partners in all of this. One of them is you from the Nova Broadcasting Group. And one of our joint and highly successful campaigns was the one to help the refugees of Ukraine.”

UNICEF Bulgaria/2022

3 million children from Ukraine have left home and are living elsewhere in the country and another 2 200 000 have left UNICEF data shows. That is 2 out of every 3 children. Among them are Marina and Arina, sisters who came to our country alone from Odessa. The girls are two of 457 unaccompanied Ukrainian children placed in Bulgaria.

UNICEF Bulgaria/2022

Marina Ovcharova:

“It was a difficult and sudden decision because we had to go alone with my ten-year-old sister. My brother and father had to stay because they are men. My mother, on the other hand, works in the army and couldn't leave either. I didn't want to leave. I had no idea where I was going and what awaited me in Bulgaria. However, I found a job at the hotel in Sunny Beach where they put us up. And now we feel fine.”

Christina de Bruin – UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria:

“We have created 27 centers, which we call “Blue dots”. We placed them along the main routes of the refugee wave. There, psychologists, social workers and lawyers help the refugees. There we also identify unaccompanied children who have been separated from their families. There are five blue dots in Bulgaria. Two in Sofia and one each in Burgas, Ruse and Durankulak. So far 5000 refugees have been assisted there. They need literally everything. But most of all they need peace."