UNICEF Bulgaria Annual Report 2011
Dear friend and supporter,
We live in times of change and challenges: another year of economic slowdown, expansion of new technologies, environmental concerns and also of growing disparities, in the world as a whole, as well as in Bulgaria.
In 2011 we looked closely at the overall situation of children in Bulgaria. What we found is of concern. While most children live in loving families, many parents are struggling to secure a basic standard of living, even when they are employed. Poverty is the main factor, although not the only one, which contributes to the continually high numbers of children in residential care. There are far too many children still not attending kindergarten and schools and children who have no access to good quality health care and adequate services for disabilities. These are children who are being left behind, thousands of them.
For 65 years, UNICEF has strived to reach out to children who for whatever reason do not share the same opportunities as their peers. We have a foot on the ground to help children in emergencies, while at the same time we have a seat at the table with the policy makers whose decisions impact the lives of millions. We build evidence, bring expertise with experience and are committed to the values of UNICEF to support national and local authorities, policy makers, service providers, civil society and the private sector in achieving results for children.
Last year we continued our work in the Shumen region, demonstrating by example how it is possible to provide better care for young children. We are working on developing new services so that the Infant Home in Shumen can be closed, because we know that no child under 3 years old should live in such an institution. At the end of 2011 more than 92 children left the institution and now live in a family environment. The Family Consultative Center was opened in Shumen to provide support and prevent the separation of families. Two more such centers are on their way and will be opened in 2012 - in Novi Pazar and Veliki Preslav. We continued to support the implementation of foster care in 9 regions in Bulgaria. Within just one year, more than 270 foster families were selected, trained and approved and 330 children now live with their foster parents. We have seen them developing beautifully, catching up quickly on delays caused by institutional care.
We also stepped up the Early Childhood Development programme. The National Conference on Young Child Health and Wellbeing brought together many national and international experts and marked the start of intensive interaction between health professionals and parents of young children. Good health and nutrition, emotional nurturing and stimulation for early learning in the first 3 years of life are the key to later success in education, work and in personal relationships. Focusing on the youngest children is the best investment for any society and an excellent opportunity to transform the future.
I will stop here, because more interesting details about what we have done can be read in our report.
Let me say a big THANK YOU! - to all our partners, friends, supporters, donors and volunteers, because what we do is only possible with your support, joint work and contributions.
Helping one child at a time is a noble cause and we salute everyone who is doing it. Nevertheless, with your help we can improve and transform the lives of thousands of children, giving them and Bulgaria a better future.
UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria