A small nation in south-east Europe, off the west coast of the Black Sea, Bulgaria is home to a declining population of around 6.9 million people. Approximately 76% of the population lives in urban centres while 24% lives in rural communities.
Bulgaria has the lowest income per capita of all European Union (EU) member states and experiences the highest level of inequality in the region, which has widened in recent years.
As a result, Bulgarian citizens are the least happy in the EU, with many people leaving the country in search of a better life.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Bulgaria since 1993.
Around 1 in 4 young children do not attend kindergarten. Early childhood education can be particularly beneficial for disadvantaged children, setting them up for success in the further stages of education, and improving social inclusion..
As they get older, more than 10,000 children drop out of primary education ever year. And 1 in 10 children do not attend compulsory education between the ages of 7 and 15. One of the main barriers to accessing education is poverty and parents being unable to pay the hidden costs of education.
An inadequate diet is a type of material deprivation. At least 2 out of 5 children do not have access to daily protein-rich meals. In addition, up to 61% of children aged 6 months to 5 years, experience anemia and 21% are deficient in vitamin D. As a result, 7% of children under 5 years are stunted.
Poor nutrition in children limits their ability to concentrate and perform well at school, impacting their prospects and making it harder for them to thrive as adults.
With almost 70% of adults approving of “minimal force” corporal punishment, children in Bulgaria are at risk of physical and psychological violence, at home and in school.
Around 20% of children have been punished by a slap to the face, 8% have been beaten, and 7% have been deprived of food.
The impact of violence on children can be profound, leaving a range of both physical and emotional harm with significant consequences for their future.