UNICEF: ‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put four million more children in poverty’

UNICEF/UN0605554/Remp Families arrive in Berdyszcze, Poland, after crossing the border from Ukraine.

The economic fall-out from Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine has thrown some four million children into poverty across eastern Europe and Central Asia, according to a report by charity UNICEF.

Children, it says, are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, according to a statement from the charity. Children from Russia and Ukraine have suffered the hardest since Moscow’s war on its neighbour in February.

The impact of the war in Ukraine and subsequent economic downturn on child poverty in eastern Europe highlighted that children make up one quarter of the population but account for nearly 40 per cent of the additional 10.4 million people experiencing poverty this year. UNICEF’s conclusions were drawn from an analysis of 22 countries in the region.

Russia has experienced the most significant increase in the number of children living in poverty, with an additional 2.8 million children now living in households below the poverty line. This, says UNICEF, accounts for nearly three-quarters of the total increase across the region.

‘The poorest children are less likely to access essential services’

Ukraine is home to half a million additional children living in poverty, the second largest share. It is important to note that this is a conservative estimate which uses a gross domestic product drop of 10 per cent, the statement added. 

“The conflict and rising inflation have driven an additional four million children across eastern Europe and Central Asia into poverty, a 19 per cent increase since 2021,” it said.

The Ukraine war and subsequent cost-of-living crisis mean that the poorest children are even less likely to access essential services and are more at risk of child marriage, violence, exploitation and abuse. 

The poorer a family is, the greater the proportion of their income that is committed to necessities such as food and fuel,” said the report, adding: “When the costs of basic goods soar, the money available to meet other needs such as health care and education falls.”

UNICEF estimates that this could see a further 4,500 children dying before their first birthday and 117,000 youngsters dropping out of school this year alone. The study also set out a framework to help reduce the number of children living in poverty and prevent more families from falling into financial distress.

The suggestions include providing universal cash benefits for children and ensuring minimum income security; providing universal cash benefits for children and ensuring minimum income security and protecting social spending. 

Author: Simon Weedy

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