Roma are the second largest minority in Bulgaria, and represent the third largest ethnic group after Bulgarians and Turks. According to the 2001 census, there were around 371,000 Roma in the country, or 4.7 per cent of the total population – the highest percentage of Roma in Europe. Unofficial estimates suggest the number of Roma is about 750,000 and that the true percentage is as high as 10 per cent.

There are an estimated 300,000 Roma children in Bulgaria. Research by the Open Society Institute from 2008 finds that Roma households are twice as likely to live below the poverty line than ethnic Bulgarians households, with poverty rates four times as high for individual household members. Roma children drop out of school more often than non-Roma children, and many families face difficulties in accessing health care. Almost three-quarters of the parents of children who have dropped out of school are Roma.

Most Roma communities live in poor conditions, without access to proper sanitation. Almost half of all households have no bathroom. Poor nutrition, inadequate parenting practices and some harmful traditional practices (such as early marriage) further undermine the development of children. According to research by the Bulgarian Academy of Science, in 2004 the overall child mortality rate for Roma was 25 per 1,000 live births, as compared to rates of 9.9 for Bulgarians and 17.8 (bulletin “Population”, 3-4, 2009) for Turks.

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