Conflicts, economic crises deepen inequalities among children: UNICEF
The ongoing war in Ukraine, natural disasters, and rising inflation have driven millions more children into poverty throughout Europe and Central Asia over the last two years, a new report by the UN children's agency UNICEF showed on Thursday.
"The war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the current economic and energy crisis have plunged many families into uncertainty, affecting their wellbeing and that of their children," said Afshan Khan, UNICEF regional director for Europe and Central Asia.
"However, lack of data on how these events have affected children's rights makes it difficult to assess how we can meet the needs of the most vulnerable children and families so that no child in the region is left behind," Khan added.
By December 2022, more than 7.2 million children inside and outside Ukraine urgently needed humanitarian assistance.
Conversely, the lowest proportion was reported in Slovenia (11%), Finland (13%), and the Czech Republic (13%).
As a result, it added, almost 1 million children in the region do not receive their scheduled vaccinations every year.
Many families must use significant amounts of their own money to pay for health care.
High out-of-pocket expenditure, a core indicator of health financing systems, can have a catastrophic impact on family income, particularly those already poor, the report said, adding that such expenditure ranges between 5% in Monaco and 85% in Armenia.
The disparities in health care for children are vast.
Although the European and Central Asian region includes countries with the lowest number of infant and child deaths globally, the region also has some countries with higher under-five mortality rates than the global average, according to the report.
Moreover, mortality rates vary not only between but also within nations.
The leading causes of newborn deaths are prematurity, low birth weight, infections, asphyxia, birth trauma, and congenital abnormalities, it added.
Two-thirds of newborn deaths could be prevented if effective health interventions were provided during pregnancy, birth, and the first week of life, the report said.
Inadequate water quality, sanitation, and hygiene in some of the regions' countries also contribute to poor health outcomes.
"Moreover, contamination of the water used for drinking, hygiene, and recreation, including microbial contamination, is a significant concern throughout the region," the report said.