15 Dead after Bulgaria fails to provide adequate necessities to disabled children

Under Article 2 of the European convention individuals are guaranteed the right to life, deprivation of which brings forth an actionable claim; however, no one has been held fully accountable for deprivation of live of 15 children suffering from physical and mental disabilities.  From 1996 through 1997, amidst financial turmoil and a tumultuous winter, 15 children and young adults, suffering from a variety of physical and mental, disabilities died in Bulgaria in the village of Dzhurkovo from the lack of proper food, medicines and basic necessities.  The Dzhurkovo Home housed children that were either abandoned by their parents or given up with their parents consent. The home provided food, shelter, medicine and basic necessities for these physically and mentally disabled children, all with support from the State, the village and the municipality.

Despite resources that were stretched thin, the lack of heat and a neglectful government, the Dzhurkovo home continued to provide for these children. The manager of the home sought out funds from the Ministry of Employment and Social Policy, Foreign Aid Agency, the Red Cross and private citizens to keep the home going, but resources dwindled and the home suffered. Eventually, this lead to the deaths of 15 children. For eight years no one was held accountable, but mistakenly the public prosecutor’s office indicted the manager of the home, the head nurse and the medical officer (those who helped these children day in and day out) for professional negligence resulting in the deaths of thirteen of the children. These individuals were acquitted of theses alleged crimes, but those truly responsible have not been held fully accountable for their negligence. Bulgaria was eventually held liable and was forced to pay at most 12,000 Euros to two of the applicants , and denying any recovery for any other applicants.

This is a perfect example of the world’s negative treatment toward children, especially those with mental and physical disabilities. They are left on the outskirts of society (and in this case they were literally, the home being about 5km from the nearest village) and not given the proper necessities to survive. Government funds are spent elsewhere and disabled people are effectively left to their own devices, which can lead to disastrous outcomes. It is definitely not a stretch to say that ableism (discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities) was a motivating factor in the government’s negligence. They see these people as less able and less deserving of support and are not given the full respect and attention of society, which can lead to their destruction.

Who should be held accountable for the deaths of these children? Does the government adequately address the rights of disabled individuals? Has society become more accepting and helpful of these individuals or are they still not given the full rights and full respect they deserve?

Source: HUDOC

Picture: European Courts


  1. This is a truly heartbreaking situation. I especially did not like reading that Bulgaria was only forced to pay 12,000 Euros to two of the applicants while denying any recovery for the other applicants. The price of a life is 12,000 Euros? I think this situation is even more depressing because I don’t really see anyone that can be held accountable for the deaths of these children. It is just an unfortunate situation. We can try to hold the Ministry of Employment and Social Policy, Foreign Aid Agency, the Red Cross, and private citizens accountable for not giving funds to the Dzhurkovo home. However, I don’t think there is a strong enough case for the liability to stick. Bulgaria was just let off the hook by paying 12,000 Euros to two of the applicants. There just isn’t a strong enough case. Money is a scarce resource in situations like this and unfortunately not everyone can be helped. In some countries, the government does not adequately address the rights of disabled individuals. I’m sure there is some factor of ableism that plays a part in the governments’ decisions. However, the sad fact is that there are too many situations like this in the world and many of them are unknown. In addition, there may not be enough resources to go around to help all these homes. It’s tragic to say but society still have not given the full rights and full respect that these individuals deserve.

  2. I believe that the Bulgarian government was truly negligent in providing the needs of these children despite the fact that the manager of the Dzhurkovo home sought funds from the Ministry of Employment and Social Policy, Foreign Aid Agency, the Red Cross and private citizens. After all this request for help, the government should have paid special attention to this home and acted with extra care, but it failed to do so or simply ignored it, maybe because of limited resources. Further, the rights of disabled individuals are generally insufficient in most countries and apparently Bulgaria does not adequately address the needs and problems of these people like many other countries. Especially, the government’s denial of recovery for other applicants other than two is such a shame because it shows a clear lack of diligence on the part of the government even after the incident.
    As I mentioned above, the world society in general does not still give the full rights and full respect that disabled people deserve. In most countries,they are forced to isolate themselves from daily life because they are not given opportunities or chances to show themselves to the world. Further, once they are isolated, the society continues its life as if they do not exist and completely ignore their needs. Bulgaria incident, unfortunately, is only one of many.

  3. This is a very sad situation. The physically and mentally disabled children are not only abandoned by their parents, but by their government as well. The children’s needs are neglected and ignored. The government did not do anything to assist the Dzhurkovo Home in caring for the children when they were needed the most. Giving a minimal stipend to the Home for basic needs is not sufficient. The government ignored the helpless pleas and the poor children, which resulted in 15 children dying. The manager of the home tried at least to seek out additional means of funding. Although it helped for a period of time, it was still not enough. The manager of the home, head nurse, and medical officer should not be held accountable for these children’s deaths unless they did absolutely nothing to save them. This is not the case because the manager attempted to provide for the children in other ways. I find this story extremely disturbing because it shows how children with disabilities can be ignored and neglected. The home is on the outskirts of town almost like the town is ashamed. These children should not be isolated but should be incorporated into the town and able to socialize with society so they are not forgotten.

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