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MERF Project Summary - Alert 03 Bulgaria (Winterisation)

Date added

27 February 2018


The Migration Emergency Response Fund (MERF), funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), was established in January 2017 in partnership with the 15 member representatives of the Start Network present in the region.

The MERF allows member organisations to react to a significant change of needs, or provide assistance to previously unidentified vulnerable groups. Its aim is to address the unpredictable nature of the mixed migration crisis across the Mediterranean that exacerbated an already difficult operating context for aid workers and made it difficult to plan for a response.

Read the full summary for MERF Alert 03 – Bulgaria

The project aimed to provide emergency medical relief and access to health care to asylum seekers hosted in Bulgarian Reception and Registration Centres (RRCs) and to support the Bulgarian system to cope with an escalation in needs resulting from a steady increase in the number of asylum seekers in late 2016 and the worsening situation due to a drop in temperatures in January 2017. The intervention directly benefitted 2,952 migrants (57% under 18) hosted in four of the most populated RRCs and one unofficial facility run by the Bulgarian Red Cross (BRC). The wider migrant population was provided with access to free and quality healthcare.

With a view to ensuring sustainability, they looked at involving the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) director and staff throughout the delivery of activities. This allowed them to build their capacity and provided them with on-the-job training to increase their knowledge and change their perceptions about migrants. The project focused on three key areas:

Primary health care: For a population of approximately 5000 people, Doctors of the World (DOTW) delivered a total of 2,054 consultations among which 80% were first consultations and 20% were follow-ups. Most of the consultations were for respiratory diseases (30.6%) due to cold weather, and skin diseases (18.2%) due to hygiene conditions. In Harmanli the DOTW medical team was composed of three medical doctors and six social workers and translators. In Sofia, they had a mobile team of one full-time and one part-time medical doctor, one part-time nurse, one social worker and two translators.

Referral to secondary health care level: DOTW referred 52 people to secondary health care including dental services (28%), dermatological care (13%) and orthopaedic services (10%). In some cases, referred patients were in need of surgery and DOTW paid for specialist needs (artificial limbs), which are not covered by the Bulgarian health insurance or any other actor involved in the response. All the referrals were made with the assistance of our drivers and translators.

Hygiene and winter donations: DOTW distributed hygiene kits, winter jackets, winter shoes, blankets and socks for people that did not have these items. All donations benefited unaccompanied minors (UAM), who had been identified as a group most likely to be left behind in the response. 

Read the full summary for MERF Alert 03 – Bulgaria