Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bulgarian Orphans Starved to Death

Lora, age 7, starved to death
About 25 mentally-disabled children a year have died in Bulgarian orphanages of systematic neglect, according to a report from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), a human rights group. Between 2000 and 2010, 238 children died. Police are investigating.

According to the BHS's investigations, 31 children were starved to death. An autopsy was not performed in more than 90 of the deaths. The death cases were never investigated as a rule - the deaths remain unpunished and the children unprotected.

"At the time of the inspections, 103 residents were suffering from malnutrition and therefore they are exposed to the risk of dying of hunger, including of diseases that will kill them because of their weakened and underfed condition," said Margarita Ilieva, of the BHC. "This is a case of an institutionalized - much more than organized - crime, and it is directed against the most vulnerable group of people in this country," she added.

More than 8 homes maintain a practice of unlawful physical immobilization of children as means to control their behaviour - tying up by the limbs or fastening to beds, wheelchairs and other objects, and the use of restraining jackets. There have been at least 17 cases of physical immobilization. More than 90 children have been "chemically restrained" by heavy and damaging neuroleptic drugs.

Dangerous drugs, often harmful and unnecessary, have been administered to 167 residents. Some of the children have been subjected to long-term excessive drug treatments.

The plight of the children first came to light in 2007 when British journalist Kate Blewett produced a harrowing film "Bulgaria's Abandoned Children", which exposed conditions in state-run Mogilino Institute. It was subsequently closed.~ Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

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