Child Poverty in Ukraine
COVID-19 has severely impacted Ukraine, and poverty rates will likely increase dramatically. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine released an official prediction on the absolute poverty implications of the pandemic. The analysis indicates that the impacts on child poverty in Ukraine will be the most severe.

Ukraine is Europe’s second-largest and one of the poorest countries in Europe. The country has more than 46,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of July 2020. The country has lifted many restrictions as it  enters its adaptive quarantine stage, though social distancing and mask-wearing requirements remain in place.

Ominous Predictions

According to the World Bank, the negative economic impact of the pandemic will show through several courses. These include a decrease in disposable incomes and consumption, lower remittances caused by decreased economic activity throughout the EU and lower commodity prices that impact Ukrainian exports.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is particularly concerned that the economic collapse will have the most adverse impacts on vulnerable groups such as single parents, multiple-children households, households with children younger than three years and people over the age of 65. UNICEF also predicts that the absolute poverty rate in Ukraine will rise from 27% to 44%, and the child poverty rate will rise from 33% to 51%.

UNICEF has two predictions for Ukrainian poverty changes as a result of COVID. Under the less severe prediction,  6.3 million more people will be living in poverty. Of those, 1.4 million will be children. The more severe prediction shows that nine million more people will be living in poverty, 1.8 million of them children. To put this in perspective, in 2019 50% of the population was financially unprotected. That will likely increase as poverty levels go up.

Government Action

To mitigate these stark numbers, the Ukrainian government has taken action on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. These actions include one-time payments for low-income pensioners and child disability payment beneficiaries. UNICEF advocates for targeted as well as categorial approaches.

Social Policy Programme

A solution to combat the inevitable increase in child poverty in Ukraine due to this crisis is UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme.  Through advocacy and technical support to the government of Ukraine, this program promotes equity for children and improved social welfare. It covers four main foci.

  1. Poverty Reduction and Macro Policies for Children: This focuses on improving the ways to measure child poverty and its multidimensional aspects. It also works to place issues of child poverty in a leading position of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.  Finally, it promotes child-centered family policies.

  2. Social Protection with a Focus on Integrated Modalities: This effort attempts to improve cash transfer performance to reduce poverty for vulnerable children and/or displaced children and their families. In addition to cash transfers, the focus is also on local social service provision.

  3. Public Finance for Children: For maximum impact of public expenditure on children, UNICEF works with line ministries and the Ministry of Finance to use results-based budgeting.

  4. Local Governance and Accountability with focus on Child-Friendly Cities: UNICEF Ukraine works with local partners to implement the global initiative, Child and Youth Friendly Municipality to strengthen social inclusion and promote child participation. It incentivizes local governments to focus on supporting children.  Over 160 Ukraine municipalities joined the initiative in 2018.

While the full impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are still unknown, and with the devastating impact it has on poverty, continuing to combat child poverty in Ukraine is vital. Social welfare programs like UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme are essential to mitigate the effects of poverty, strengthen child care and enhance access to basic services. Investing in children will have a substantial impact on the future, and it is a necessary measure to combat poverty in Ukraine and around the world.

Rochelle Gluzma
Photo: Flickr