Monday, January 07, 2008

Shame on you, Minister Maslarova!

The title resembles my Nov. 26, 2007 post Shame on you, Minister Grancharova. And, again, I'll write about the outrageous reactions of Bulgarian ministers to the scandal with our care homes for abandoned disabled children.
Emilia Maslarova is Bulgarian Minister for Labour and Social Policy. After a BBC documentary showed disabled children abused and neglected to the point of starvation at an institution in the village of Mogilino, Maslarova accused the BBC in manipulation and misinformation (see my earlier post Bulgarian government - unit measure for arrogance).
Unfortunately, the public outcry to Maslarova's words apparently hasn't been sufficient to prevent her from producing more arrogant nonsense of the same kind. This entitled the Minister to have a post of mine devoted especially to her.
I had heard that Maslarova had said about the children in Mogilino that "they can only as much" but hadn't taken care to find the original quote. I have now: blogger Dilmana reports that it is from an Oct. 9, 2007 interview of Minister Maslarova by Horizont radio channel:

"Maslarova: We are talking about children with severe intellectual aberrations.
Interviewer Irina Nedeva: Do you really think that these children have severe intellectual disabilities and "can only as much"?
Maslarova: I say what experts in this field, medical experts, say: that these children can be supported, can be taught some games, but we hardly can make these children adequate in every respect... - because some of them are with a severe form of oligophrenia... - I invite these ladies to go e.g. to the (care home in the village of) Krushare, to see children resembling small corpses, who just don't react. I know how much efforts employees there make to keep these children clean, fed, they feed them, so let's not go against nature because unfortunately medicine hasn't found a method to recover these children the way we would want."

Below, Dilmana's post gives an interview with Dr. Asparuh Iliev, a Bulgarian MD and neuroscientist living and working in Germany. I advise all Bulgarian readers to go there and see it all. He thoroughly debunks Maslarova's statement and at the end challenges her to cite the names of the medical experts who allegedly said that nothing more could be done for the institutionalized disabled children. By the way, this brilliant professional and admirable personality has been one of my first students. Bravo, Asparuh! I am happy that I have been your teacher.
Unfortunately, Maslarova couldn't even stay at that point. She continued bringing disgrace to herself and the Bulgarian government with her big mouth. The Dec. 12, 2007 post of the Mogilino blog gives a large quote from her interview by Info radio channel at the same day. Bulgarian readers are advised to follow the link, and for other readers, I am translating below.

"Interviewer: Tell us something that interests everybody these days. Have you already begun bringing children out of the Mogilino care home?
Maslarova: Let me say frankly, this is a very brutal, pre-exponated manipulation. It is regrettable that Bulgarian media also joined because if I want to, excuse my expression, discredit a country, I can make a much more scary documentary. Much more.
Interviewer: Let me make it clear for the listeners, we are talking about the BBC documentary about this care home.
Maslarova: Yes, I want to tell you that we have already closed two care homes without anybody hearing and without making such noise. The order to close the Mogilino care home was issued back in 2006. However, it is not under the jurisdiction of our Ministry, although we reap all "laurels", it is affiliated to the municipality of Mogilino and the municipality rejected the order, which right it has. However, all (necessary) measures are taken, children are gradually brought out of the care home. These children are taken into account for building of protective homes which will be ready very soon for the children who are over 18 years old. There are 35 children over 18 in the care home - young people with mental retardation. Several children will be reunited with their families. Unfortunately, most parents don't want to take back their children from the care home, so we all will have to care for them. This is no drama. I want to stress that the children in the care home have food, clothes and the needed conditions. So we don't need old clothes sent from somewhere. Everything will be over in 4 months. So we are working very hard on this problem. I regret that it had to be made dramatic this way, and with the participation of Bulgarians receiving money for this, but it is another matter."
Interviewer: You mean that somebody was paid to discredit Bulgaria by this documentary?
Maslarova: Of course money was given to make the documentary, and not little money. And people from Bulgarian non-government organizations contributed to the documentary. I wish to say that we have taken all necessary measures. The children are OK, they are healthy, they are already regularly visited by doctors from (the city of) Ruse. The problem was that they cannot have this expert medical help every day because Mogilino is located 40 km away from Ruse and the commute is difficult."

Most of the above needs no comment, but let me cite some facts reported by the authors of the Mogilino blog: "After the documentary, much was changed in Mogilino. About 15 children were hospitalized. Some of them had been dehydrated. One (Stoyan) underwent oesophagus surgery and finally stopped vomiting... The children already have five meals per day. They eat fruits, a kind of food they hadn't seen for months. The needs of each child have been assessed and most of them receive specialized therapy."

Maslarova & Co., please resign! We have had enough of your governing. As long as you stay in power, my blog will look like a bulletin of ministerial idiocies. And I would prefer to blog about other things. By the way, could you kindly inform me where people are paid for "discrediting Bulgaria" in public space? I wish to submit my application.

UPDATE: In late February, Minister Maslarova offered more jewels on the subject. Irina Novakova reports Maslarova's words in the Feb. 29 issue of Kapital newspaper:
"Showing the film Bulgaria's Disabled Children in the European Parliament isn't fair to the country (Bulgaria). I refused to travel to attend the film-show and the discussion about disabled children in Bulgaria. My reasons to refuse were that all Bulgaria shouldn't be demonized on the grounds of a film and the problem mustn't be turned into a political one.
I don't think that the government should travel (to Brussels) only because somebody produced somewhere a movie which was shot as a fiction one, not as a documentary. For me, the film is biased.
A substantial part of people in institutions such as the one shown cannot be integrated in the society because they have very severe disabilities. Therefore, there will always be institutions with bars at the windows. The important thing is to assure good living conditions in them
Recently, Belgium sent to Mogilino an expert group to check the situation on the spot and to see how to help Bulgaria in solving the problem. Maslarova commented their work: "The (Belgian) group politicized the situation and this is dishonest for an EU member state with which we are equal partners. The Belgians wagged a finger at the Bulgarian side which isn't good for the bilateral relationships. I am beginning to think that old (EU) states use the problems of new member states to solve some internal problems of their own."

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