The impact of the war in Ukraine and subsequent economic downturn on child poverty in eastern Europe and Central Asia

The challenges faced by families living in or on the brink of poverty deepen when governments reduce public expenditure, increase consumption taxes or put in place austerity measures in a limiting effort to boost their economies in the short-term, as this diminishes the reach and quality of support services that families depend on. The study sets out a framework to help reduce the number of children living in poverty and prevent more families from falling into financial distress:

  • Provide universal cash benefits for children and ensure minimum income security.
  • Expand social assistance benefits to all families with children in need, including refugees. 
  • Protect social spending, especially for vulnerable children and families. 
  • Protect and support the delivery of health, nutrition, and social care services to pregnant mothers, infants, and pre-schoolers.
  • Introduce price regulations on basic food items for families. 

UNICEF has recently partnered with the EU Commission and several EU countries to pilot the EU Child Guarantee initiative to mitigate the impact of poverty on children and provide them with opportunities to thrive in adulthood. With more children and families now being pushed into poverty, a robust response is warranted across the region. UNICEF is calling for continued and expanded support to strengthen social protection systems in high- and middle-income countries across Europe and Central Asia; and the prioritization of funding for social protection programmes, including cash assistance programmes for vulnerable children and families.