Refugees and migrants face new challenges in Bulgaria during the COVID-19 pandemic
The team of the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria stood at the frontline to reduce the burden of the health crisis upon the refugee and migrant children
Already vulnerable, refugee and migrant children in Bulgaria have faced a host of challenges created by the COVID-19 health emergency: Stress and uncertainty, movement restrictions, difficulty in obtaining basic hygiene products and medicines, as well as hampered access to services including health and psychosocial support. During this unprecedented time of isolation, the loss of employment opportunities, incomes and shelter have exacerbated the situation, increasing the risk not only to becoming ill but also to other risks such as gender-based violence.
A dedicated team of social workers and cultural mediators with the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria (CRWB) has been on the frontlines of working to reduce the burden of the pandemic on refugee and migrant children. Supported by UNICEF and in the context of the “Strengthening Refugee and Migrant Children’s Health Status in Southern and South-Eastern Europe” project, funded by the European Union’s Health Programme (2014-2020), these professionals continue to provide vital assistance.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have distributed a lot of hygiene materials to help the refugee and migrant children with UNICEF’s support,” says Boyko Tsenkov, a social worker with CRWB.
“My husband lost his job during the pandemic and has become more tense and agitated. Our finances barely cover our basic food and health needs,” says Jamila* who is originally from Afghanistan.
“My husband left our family just before the state of emergency, I am on my own now,” says Alia* from Iraq.
“We have to rely on donations and regularly visit the humanitarian distribution centers to receive clothes, face masks and other materials”, says Rashida* who comes from Palestine.
To address the growing demand for supplies, including hygiene materials and food, the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria (CRWB) has opened a new storage place.
Volunteers have helped to clean up and equip the store, deliver and organize the donated items.
Using their official vehicle, which has been nicknamed “the white swan,” CRWB staff transport the donated items, and register and organize them for pickup.
“I don’t speak the language well and have to look for mediators who help me understand the new health provisions and requirements,” says Hassana*, originally from Iran.
Printed materials in various languages (Bulgarian, Arabic and Farsi) as well as a Facebook group help to strengthen the implementation of national health policies and increase health literacy among refugee and migrant children.
* Names have been changed to protect their privacy.
This publication is part of the Project Strengthening Refugee and Migrant Children’s Health Status in Southern and South Eastern Europe, Co-funded by the Health Programme of the European Union.
The content of this publication represents the views of the author(s) only and is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.