Medical assistance to people displaced from Ukraine
Since the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine international armed conflict in February 2022, over 450,000 people displaced from Ukraine have entered Bulgaria. Their needs upon arrival are high and range from essential items such as food, clothes, hygiene and temporary shelter, to more complex and long-term services such as health care, housing, education and employment.
A high mobilisation of the government and local authorities, non-governmental organisations and individuals has helped meet the initial needs of those arriving. Volunteers and informal groups organised welcome points at the borders with Romania and Moldova, providing information and legal aid, food and water, clothes and accommodation, as well as restoring communication with relatives staying behind and helping with access to medical care. Crisis centres were opened by regional and local authorities in Sofia, Burgas and Varna, and reception and distribution points operated by the Bulgarian Red Cross are operational at border points and train stations in larger cities.
In March 2022, the government activated the Temporary Protection Directive, increasing capacities to register all people displaced from Ukraine in Bulgaria. State railway and public transport became free of charge for people on the move in many locations. In addition, the state provided financial support to accommodation facilities to ensure free shelter and meals for people who fled Ukraine. In April 2022, the Parliament adopted legislative changes granting displaced people access to the same health insurance rights as Bulgarian citizens. However, this inclusion in the Bulgarian healthcare system only partially facilitates their access to healthcare, as health insurance in Bulgaria does not fully cover the costs for treatment and medicines. Following the legislative change, the Bulgarian Red Cross continued receiving many requests for financial assistance towards access to health services or medicine.
In response, the Bulgarian Red Cross, in cooperation with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Uniced Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has been operating two helplines – one for health and one for psychosocial support - since the beginning of the humanitarian crisis. The aim of these medical support helplines is to not leave any displaced person without the necessary health and psychological support, and to ensure that they receive the same healthcare as Bulgarian citizens.
Dr. Pencho Penchev, Medical Coordinator of the IFRC Appeal for people displaced from Ukraine, notes: "Thanks to the efforts of the government and the psychosocial support and medical assistance programmes of the Bulgarian Red Cross and its partners, thousands of people displaced from Ukraine felt that they are not alone in their difficult days."
The hotline provides consultations related to health issues, referrals to specialized services, and coordination with other stakeholders to assist people displaced from Ukraine in need of various types of support. Those wishing to receive medical or psychosocial support fill in an application form which is then processed by Bulgarian Red Cross staff, or contact the helpline directly to receive advice from medical consultants, pharmacists and trained psychologists.
The Bulgarian Red Cross’ medical assistance targets people with vulnerabilities who were displaced from Ukraine and now live in Bulgaria under temporary protection, particularly members of large households, mothers, unaccompanied children, people with disabilities, older people, and people in urgent need of medicines for postoperative treatment, chronic illness, or treatment of a child.
Julietta, who has fled Ukraine and now lives in Bulgaria, has benefitted from the Bulgarian Red Cross’ medical services. "I would like to express my immense gratitude for the help provided in the purchase of medicines for my diabetes and accompanying diseases. Your doctors and staff saved my life by helping me in my time of need. I have started walking and seeing normally again," Says Julietta.
Medical assistance to people displaced from Ukraine coordinated through the helpline ranges from payment of health insurance, medicines and medical devices to support towards obtaining medical services and vaccinations, psychosocial support, and free first aid training for those interested. Currently operated in Dobrich, Varna, Burgas, Plovdiv and Sofia, where the largest number of people displaced from Ukraine is located, the Bulgarian Red Cross and partners aim to extend this activity further to cover other areas of the country in the future.
Medical assistance to people displaced from Ukraine
2022 - ongoing
Bulgarian Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)
If you are a person displaced from Ukraine, currently located in Bulgaria and in need of health services, you can reach the Bulgarian Red Cross’ health helpline under +359 800 20 101, every day from 8:00 to 20:00.
If you are in need of mental health and psychosocial support, you can reach the Bulgarian Red Cross’ helpline for psychosocial support under +359 800 11 466, every day from 8:00 to 18:00.
Help is also available via email through firstname.lastname@example.org.