Humanitarian organisations, UN in fundraising appeal to support refugees from Ukraine in Bulgaria

As humanitarian support to refugees from Ukraine enters its third year, 19 humanitarian organizations and UN in Bulgaria are appealing for $38.6 million to support 70 000 refugees from Ukraine in Bulgaria in 2024, a media statement on February 15 said.

The ongoing war in Ukraine has led to the displacement of more than 6.4 million refugees globally, with Bulgaria alone hosting more than 67 000 individuals with temporary protection by February 15 2024, highlighting the pressing need for humanitarian assistance.

“Our commitment to support refugees from Ukraine is steadfast,” said Seda Kuzucu, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Representative and Refugee Coordinator in Bulgaria.

“In close coordination with the government of Bulgaria, our priority is the protection, empowerment, and self-reliance of refugees, strengthening social cohesion, and localization of our efforts with municipalities and community-based organizations,” Kuzucu said.

The Bulgaria chapter of the 2024 Refugee Response Plan (RRP) embodies a robust humanitarian response by five UN agencies, 13 national NGOs that include six refugee-led organisations, four women-led organisations and one faith-based organszation; and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Bulgarian Red Cross.

In Bulgaria, a significant portion of Ukrainian refugees are older persons and individuals with disabilities, with women and girls comprising a majority, the media statement said.

Efforts to mitigate risks and prevent gender-based violence are critical, along with enhanced child protection interventions.

While a substantial percentage of working-age refugees are employed, barriers like language training and skills recognition hinder their socio-economic integration.

Language barriers and high healthcare costs pose challenges for refugees accessing healthcare services, and according to the inter-agency assessments a notable percentage of households in Bulgaria report experiencing mental health issues, emphasizing the need for mental health support for refugees.

Additionally, a low enrollment rate of school-age refugee children in Bulgaria highlights the urgent need to prioritise education for this vulnerable group, the statement said.

The statement said that in support of the government’s response and leadership, the RRP emphasizes the continued needs in the refugee response, particularly in the priority sectors of basic needs, protection, livelihoods and socio-economic inclusion, health, and education – and the cross-cutting priority sectors of mental health and psychosocial support and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

The financial appeal of $38.6 million for Bulgaria’s 2024 RRP targets 70 000 refugees who may need assistance in Bulgaria, including those currently in the country and those who may arrive in uncertain times ahead in Ukraine.

In recent years, the number and diversity of humanitarian and development organizations working in refugee contexts has expanded. To ensure assistance is coordinated in a coherent and complementary way, UNHCR leads the development of Refugee Response Plans (RRPs).

These plans support host governments to protect and assist refugees in large and complex refugee situations through international solidarity, facilitating a unified approach to addressing the multifaceted needs of displaced populations.

The Bulgarian chapter of the 2024 RRP which launches on February 15 in Sofia, is part of the of the humanitarian response for Ukraine coordinated by the United Nations and as launched in Geneva on January 15 2024.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) coordinates the Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan for the response inside Ukraine targeting 8.5 million people.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, coordinates the Regional Refugee Response Plan targeting 2.3 million refugees and host communities in 10 countries, including Bulgaria.

“The RRP represents a critical lifeline for refugees from Ukraine,” Kuzucu said. “We call on all stakeholders to join us in supporting this vital initiative and together we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of refugees.”

The 2024 RRP partners in Bulgaria are: Aid for Ukraine; Ak-Nordost; Association of Ukrainian organization in Bulgaria MOTHER UKRAINE; Bulgarian Red Cross/IFRC; Caritas; Charitable Foundation Fund Good; Council for Refugee Women; Foundation for Access to Rights; International Organization for Migration (IOM); Open Bulgaria; Ot nas zavisi; Rotary International – Bulgaria; Situation Centre Open Doors; Ukrainian House; UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency; UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization); UNICEF (United Nations International Children s Emergency Fund), the United Nations Children’s Fund; World Health Organization (WHO); Za Dobroto Foundation.

(Photo, of Lilya, an art teacher from the Ukrainian city of Izmail, with her two sons in Rousse: UNHCR/Dobrin Kashavelov)

The Sofia Globe staff

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