Hunger is more danger than the pandemia

The world is facing one of the biggest health and economic crises of the 21st century. Bulgaria has not been spared. Millions are locked in their homes. The country is facing an unprecedented ordeal. The competency, expertise and will of institutions are being put to a great test. Our healthcare system is confronted with a huge challenge which is putting to risk the lives of thousands of Bulgarians. The normal life of all Bulgarians is in danger.

But while some of us are wondering how we will bear social isolation, others are in life-threatening situations. Hunger is knocking on the door of every second Bulgarian household. And as we know, hunger is even scarier than illness. If we go along with the optimistic scenario that a few hundred will die from COVID-19 – already a dreadful loss of human life – how are we going to consider a scenario in which thousands die of hunger and from the cold, locked in their homes or out on the Bulgarian streets?

According to Eurostat 300 000 Bulgarians are employed but poor – they constitute the so-called working poor. This means that even though these people work, they do not have enough money to satisfy their basic needs such as food, heating and other expenses.
Their occupations are not highly esteemed and sometimes remain invisible to others. But they are indispensable to the people who have them and their families. The working poor will be the first ones to lose their jobs because of the crisis. And they will be left without food, in the cold and dark.

Apart from these people, there are other “invisible” Bulgarians. They are those outside of support initiatives and the social system. We walk past them every day, see them next to the trash bins, in the parks or on the streets. They work and live without a secure monthly income, without access to water and electricity or a perspective for change. They live off what they make during the day. They can’t ask institutions for anything because for them, they are non-existent. They are mobile but not because they like nature or because they feel like it like those of us who enjoy traveling. They are mobile because they need to survive. For these people social isolation equals death. They do not have other means of survival and the restrictions will have a detrimental effect on the physical and mental health of children and their families, on their behaviour, attitudes and dreams as students, workers and parents.

Obviously, all of this will reflect on their health and thus open the doors to the dreaded virus.
Another problem these people face in the conditions of a state of emergency is the lack of an address registration and sometimes of identification papers.
Where should citizens reside if they do not have a home or an address? Is the street their home? Apparently, one can be fined up to 5 000 leva for being homeless and not having a roof over his or her head.

In the present situation it is clear that the strict measures will not be revoked for these people’s sake. But the state needs to have a plan of action about how to support this sizeable part of its population.
Instead of the introduction of such measures, however, which we would normally simply call human compassion, we are witnessing an offensive attitude towards these people. And this is coming from the Minister of Finance whose responsibility it is to protect them.
“Citizens who are marginals and don’t fall into any of the described categories, are socially isolated and I doubt that there’s much that can be done for them”, said Vladislav Goranov a few days ago.

What does this mean, Minister Goranov?

That we reject them and let them die? Are they not our compatriots and aren’t we together as a nation facing this pandemic?
Is it really true that Bulgaria can’t do anything for its most vulnerable citizens among whom are elderly people living alone, poor families with a lot of children, as well as children who work?
What kind of message is the state sending to its citizens who fall into these categories? That they are not its citizens and the Bulgarian state is merely their stepmother?

In the situation of a state of emergency the exclusion of whole groups from society by state structures leads to aggressive injustices. The communication of priorities gives a clear indication of who matters how much to the state. Bulgaria still has the resources to prove that everyone matters for its future.
Another group of people is faced with a humanitarian issue. The scariest part is that it is our children who constitute it. In the present situation, schools are closed. And this means that thousands of students will not be having the cooked lunches until recently provided in school canteens.

At the same time the money for these lunches is part of municipalities’ budgets. It is obviously necessary that municipalities make a decision with regard to changing the regulations concerning food deliveries.
Since the students can participate in online classes and nearly the whole world, even European institutions, are communicating via the Internet, there are no obstacles to making such a decision remotely. A way has to be found for this food, which is already planned for, perhaps even paid for, to be distributed to those who need it.

No child should stay hungry because of the state’s decision to impose a mass quarantine.


It is possible, for example, for school buses to start delivering this food at people’s homes, while of course adhering to all hygiene requirements of the health authorities. There are online platforms for food delivery, municipalities have social services systems and there are even volunteers who would participate in such a mission.
This measure does not require any additional resources – only political will to show that our fellow Bulgarians, irrespective of their social standing, have not been left behind. At the moment, social services are delivering food to elderly and secluded people. An approach needs to be elaborated which would allow for this service to be extended to the most vulnerable. One way could be introducing food vouchers for people in need which would be valid for the duration of the quarantine or the state of emergency. Part of this kind of flexibility, this time on the side of the state, would have to be the elimination of restrictive regulations for social assistance provided by EU programs.

The European Commission gave states freedom in relation to operational programmes – now it is time for the Bulgarian governing organs to do the same.
The measures for supporting companies are a positive development, but without people, without citizens, every state, including its economy, are doomed to a slow and painful death. This is why funds from operational programmes need to be directed towards the immediate needs of citizens for at least the next six months.


This would not only protect the lives and health of thousands of Bulgarians. It would also have a beneficial effect on the economy which relies on consumer spending so that it can generate growth or at least minimize the expected decline. This measure, combined with the rise in state expenditure, would help businesses endure the unprecedented pressure which they are expected to face in the next months. Additional measures are necessary to support the NGO sector. At the moment, the NGO sector is the robust foundation on which the actions of state power are dependent. In the conditions of a state of emergency, the NGO sector is managing to mobilize a significant financial, human and technical resource in support of the most vulnerable Bulgarian citizens who are visibly forgotten or neglected by the state. Volunteers and donations are also supporting those who are on the frontline – the medics – the people our lives depend on at present.


NGOs are precisely the place where various state agencies are finding support at this moment, as they are working on the ground in immediate contact with households which are usually outside of the reach of all state services. The state can only learn from the flexibility exhibited by civil society during the state of emergency.
Businesses are suffering enormous losses. Institutions and public systems are taking on an impossible burden. But life itself is the most precious thing we have. Hunger is scarier than illness, because illness goes away but hunger stays!
Let’s eradicate hunger in Bulgaria. Together!

Let’s protect and preserve human life! So that there’s a tomorrow for all of us once again!