The Russia-Ukraine war has devastated the world since the invasion began in February 2022. It has halted economies and supply chains and as recent findings have shown, the war has caused a sharp increase in poverty. As a UNICEF report found, poverty will likely increase significantly in countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as a result of the war between Ukraine and Russia. Children bear the brunt of the increase in poverty, as an estimated 4 million children will likely end up in poverty – a 19% increase since 2021. Here is some information about the increasing child poverty in Ukraine.
The Cause of Poverty
The Eastern Europe and Central Asia region (ECA) is dependent on Russia and Ukraine for many essential goods and sources of income, such as food, fertilizer, trade and tourism. For the last two decades, the region has been growing economically. However, several recent economic crises have stifled economic growth. The war followed the 2020 pandemic, which brought about an increase in economic instability and market disruption. The war has exacerbated these issues and has also caused increases in the price of fuel and food. This has caused a decrease in disposable income and social and economic protection from the government, all of which have left families with children disproportionally impacted.
In addition, since the beginning of the war, more than 3 million people have escaped war-torn Ukraine. Half of these refugees are children, with the U.N. estimating that one child per second becomes a refugee of the war. As these refugees flee to nearby European countries, they are much more susceptible to falling into poverty.
Effects of Child Poverty
Along with an increase in child poverty, UNICEF reported a higher rate of infant mortality, estimating that an additional 4,500 children will die before their first birthday in 2022. UNICEF also reported that more children are likely to drop out of school, with an estimated two in 2,000 children likely to miss a year of school in 2022.
In addition, poor children are much more likely to feel the impacts of fuel poverty, hunger, abuse and child marriage. Child poverty also impacts a child’s future, as one in three children who grow up in poverty will continue to live in poverty for the rest of their lives. This will continue to lead to a cycle of generational poverty that will affect children and families long after the war ends.
Fighting Poverty in the ECA
Child poverty in Ukraine significantly impacts children, their families and the economy. However, it is possible to prevent and mitigate child poverty in Ukraine. In its report, UNICEF outlines a framework that, if implemented, could significantly reduce child poverty rates and protect families from financial distress. The framework includes introducing price regulation on food items for families. It also calls for expanding social systems, such as universal cash benefits and social assistance to families with children. In addition, UNICEF plans to continue highlighting the importance of health and medical care to infants, mothers and children.
Moreover, UNICEF has partnered with several EU countries to launch the EU Child Guarantee. This initiative aims to decrease child poverty and provide opportunities enabling children to succeed in adulthood. Some options include free early childhood education, free healthcare and adequate housing. By providing these opportunities, the EU hopes to ensure equal opportunities for all and stop the cycle of poverty at its roots.