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Christina de Bruin, UNICEF: Many children with disabilities in Bulgaria do not have access to education

UNICEF invites us to "Support the Team of the Future – Children in Bulgaria"

Christina de Bruin
Photo: UNICEF Bulgaria

On Sunday, 20 November, one of the biggest sporting forums - the FIFA World Cup - kicks off in Qatar. On this date, on the occasion of the adoption of the 1925 Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, the world will also celebrate Children's Day. This year, the two events find their intersection in UNICEF Bulgaria's new fundraising campaign "Support the Team of the Future - Children" .

"The situation of children's rights in Bulgaria has improved in recent years, but it is still not what we would like it to be," said Christina de Bruin, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria, in a special interview with Radio Bulgaria. She has been in the country since 2021:

The pandemic and isolation, the war in Ukraine, which lies within miles of Bulgaria, and the economic crisis are factors that affect every citizen, but children are the most vulnerable and defenceless when addressing their consequences, UNICEF specialists say. It is therefore important to build tolerance and understanding, says Boryana Gidikova, Communications Director at UNICEF Bulgaria. And she backs up her words with the alarming statistics of the day:

"Recent figures show that one in nine children in Europe commit suicide as a result of such stress. 50% of all mental health problems in children occur before the age of 14, and up to 75% before the age of 24. There is a need for a systemic change in thinking and attitudes to the problems of the most vulnerable, as 30% of children in Bulgaria live on the edge of poverty. These are also extremely worrying figures that affect both disabled and disadvantaged children. And we must constantly reflect on how we treat them and what we do to integrate them into the society whose future they are."

"UNICEF's goal is to remind people that when it comes to defending children's rights and giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential, there can only be one team - the children's team. We should all unite around it" - says Boryana Gidikova and draws attention to the goals of the new campaign of the organization.

"Our new campaign focuses on three of the areas we are working on specifically in Bulgaria, because internationally the problems of children are huge: quality inclusive education for every child, early childhood development for the best start in a child's life, we are talking about the youngest from 0 to 2 years. And also very important for us is the prevention and protection from violence, sexual exploitation and abuse for every child. The funds raised from this campaign will go to various programs on these topics."

Steps towards solving some of the problems of Bulgarian children at risk have already been taken. Part of the funds raised will go to improve and upgrade the free Cboard web app for children with speech and language impairments, aiding communication with symbols and text-to-speech, developed by UNICEF, explains Boryana. It enables children who cannot speak to communicate with their relatives, teachers and those around them.

The campaign will also provide funds to support the work of the Safer Internet Centre and the Steps Together to a Violence-Free School programme, which we hope will involve at least 200 new schools in Bulgaria in 2023.

Another very important service we have created in the sphere of child protection are special areas where children and families who have experienced violence can seek help from specialists. They are Children's Advocacy and Support Centres where social, legal and psychological support is provided by a variety of professionals. Our goal is to implement this model at national level, because at the moment there are only three of them in the country," says Boryana Gidikova.

*The UNICEF Bulgaria "Support the team of the future – children" campaign continues until the end of December 2022. No matter your location, everyone can participate by donating via SMS to 1021 and/or dari.unicef.bg

Photos: UNICEF Bulgaria; C-board

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