Sharp increase in the number of poor children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Rising inflation and the war in Ukraine have caused a 19% increase in child poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, according to a study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), released on Monday, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The impact of the war in Ukraine and the subsequent economic downturn on child poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asiawarns that the ripple effects of the surge could lead to a sharp increase in school dropouts and child mortality.

Data from 22 countries in the region show that children bear the brunt of the economic crisis resulting from Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

While they represent only 25% of the population, they account for almost 40% of the 10.4 million additional people forced into poverty this year.

Children across the region are being swept away in the terrible wake of this warsaid UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Afshan Khan.

Rooted in war

Triggered by the war in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis in the region, Russia accounts for almost three-quarters of the increase into child poverty – with an additional 2.8 million people now living in households below the poverty line.

Ukraine is home to half a million more children living in povertythe second largest share, followed by Romania, where there was an increase of 110,000, the study notes.

“Beyond the obvious horrors of war – killing and maiming of children, mass displacement – ​​the economic consequences of war in Ukraine are having a devastating impact on children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia,” said Ms. Khan.

Beyond Money Problems

The consequences of child poverty extends far beyond families in financial difficulty.

The steep rise could lead to 4,500 more babies dying before their first birthday and learning losses could mean 117,000 more dropouts this year alone, the study says.

“If we don’t support these children and families now, the sharp rise in child poverty will almost certainly result in lost lives, lost learnings and lost futures,” the UNICEF official warned.

cycle of poverty

The poorer a family, the higher the proportion of income that must be spent on food, fuel and other necessities.

When the cost of basic goods skyrockets, the money available to meet other needs such as health care and education decreases, the study points out.

The ensuing cost of living crisis means that poorest children are even less likely to access essential services and are more at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.

And for many, child poverty is lifelong, perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of hardship and deprivation.

When governments cut public spending, raise taxes or add austerity measures to stimulate their economies, they diminish support services for those who depend on them.

“Austerity measures will hurt children the most – pushing even more children into poverty and making it harder for families who are already struggling,” Ms Khan said.

Schedule support

The study makes recommendations to help people in financial difficulty, such as providing universal cash benefits for children; extending social assistance to families with children in need; and protect social spending.

It also suggests supporting health, nutrition and social welfare services for pregnant women, infants and preschool children, as well as introducing price regulation on basic food items for families.

Meanwhile, UNICEF has partnered with the European Commission and several EU countries to pilot the EU Child Guarantee initiative to mitigate the impact of poverty on children. children.

Strong response needed

As more and more children and families are pushed into poverty, a strong response is essential, across the region.

UNICEF calls for increased support to strengthen social protection systems in high- and middle-income countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; and financing social protection programs for vulnerable children and families.

“We must protect and extend social support to vulnerable families before the situation worsens,” said the UNICEF regional director.

Visit UN News to learn more.

Helen D. Jessen