At the invitation of the State Protocol Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Georgi Bogdanov, Executive Director at NNC, attended the informal meeting of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy with journalists, diplomats, politicians, and public figures.
“When they have mined everything and children with injured hands and legs are suffering, families are suffering, we cannot progress quickly because we have to take care of our people, our citizens. They are our top priority and first concern!” This is what the President of Ukraine said at the National History Museum and reminded us that since the beginning of the war, more than 200,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia or a Russian-occupied territory and nearly 1,000 children have been killed and wounded. A horrible statistic that we, the NNC and the organizations in the Network, will continue to counter with efforts at the local level.
Since the beginning of the war, more than 1 million Ukrainian refugees have passed through Bulgaria, and at the moment there are about 72,000 of them in the country. As a persistent trend since February 2022, between 40 and 45% of them are children, some practically unaccompanied by an adult, and among the rest there is a very large proportion of pregnant women who also need special protection and support. In the first two months of the conflict, so many Ukrainian children came to Bulgaria that the child population in the country grew by 2%.
National Network for Children was and continues to be one of the leading organizations to monitor and ensure the protection of the rights of refugee children from Ukraine during the military conflict, together with its members in locations across the country, and to advocate for improvement and facilitating all procedures for access to health care, education, social assistance, child protection, legal aid, humanitarian aid and accommodation. In the conditions of an unprecedented political crisis in the country and caretaker governments, the non-governmental sector at times turned out to be the only recipient and guarantor of aid for refugees.
We hope that with our work we have managed to help the children and their mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers feel better after everything they have been through, and we wish Ukraine a quick victory! We will be on the line to help as long as needed and until every refugee child has a safe home, protection and peace.
- Together for the Children of Ukraine – for 6 months after the start of the Russian Federation‘s full-scale war in Ukraine, the NNC donated all its donations to the victims of the war in Ukraine;
- NNC created the Fund „For Ukrainian Refugee Children“, through which it supported more than 800 Ukrainian citizens, families with children seeking protection from the war in Ukraine in our country, and unable to meet their needs. In response to the situation and the needs of our member organizations who work directly with refugees, the Fund “For Ukrainian Refugee Children” raised BGN 7,500, through the holding of the interactive exhibition “Witness the War Through the Eyes of Children”, created on the initiative of 121 Agency and the Museum of Children’s Creativity – Ukraine. The exhibition presents drawings by Ukrainian children who survived the first days of the Russian attack of Ukraine. Families were supported with medicinal products, medical care and the most basic necessary goods and products for a normal household life;
- As part of the “Warm Winter” project, supported from the Ministry of Interior, in January and February 2023 we bought and installed 42 air conditioners for rooms with no heating, in the Zheleznichar base in the resort of Golden Sands where people with disabilities, including children and women, as well as many elderly people with chronic diseases are accommodated by the state. The air conditioners will remain the property of the base, and while the hostilities last, it will house refugees from Ukraine. This activity was supported by the Ministry of the Interior under the project “Support for the initial reception of persons displaced from Ukraine” with funds from the European Union from the “Asylum, Migration and Integration” fund 2021 – 2027;
- We submitted over 50 proposals to the National Coordination Group On the Refugee Crisis on ways to provide support to the most vulnerable refugee children and their families. Thanks to our efforts, a special task force was created to deal with children‘s issues;
- National Network for Children was one of the leading organizations that worked together with the national authorities to ensure access and inclusion of refugee children in Bulgarian education. It was necessary to overcome a number of administrative, normative and practical restrictions in order for children from Ukraine to be enrolled in Bulgarian kindergartens and schools. The Network, together with UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science, is working hard to develop a programme for the provision of early education and care services by municipalities for the youngest children due to shortages in municipal kindergartens, as well as for assistance in various specific cases related to the reception and adaptation of children in schools around the country, especially in the most affected regions along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
- In 2022, together with European Association of Service Providers for People with Disabilities (EASPD) and UNICEF – Geneva, NNC is implementing an early childhood development project aimed at supporting refugee children from Ukraine. The project uses the capacity and the inner power of the Ukrainian community itself. More than 90 Ukrainian specialists – psychologist, paediatricians, therapists, teachers and parents are working as family consultants and group facilitators and support Ukrainian children with disabilities and at risk and their parents in 27 locations in Bulgaria; as of June 2023 more, than 2000 consultations were provided, more than 1000 children aged 0-7, of which more than 450 with disabilities and at risk were supported and more than 1150 group sessions for peer-to-peer support were held.
- Thanks to the mutual aid groups on the above project and in a joint partnership between Ukrainian mothers of children born in Bulgaria after the war, several major administrative victories were achieved – the Bulgarian state provided unhindered social payments and assistance to pregnant women and women in labor, as well as easier access for obtaining maternity leave from Ukraine in Bulgaria through cooperation between the countries and with the help of the Embassy of Ukraine in Sofia.
- Various communities have been established to help Ukrainian refugees with legal aid and counseling, and as part of a working visit to Tirana, NNC established contacts with the Deputy Minister of Social Affairs of Ukraine, who was part of the meeting, to continue the partnership between the two ministries to access and facilitate social support.