Policy Issue: Financial and Economic Crisis Corporate Messages and Background Information
Children and women are already being severely affected by the global economic crisis. However, the full impacts of the global slowdown on the poorest and most vulnerable may yet be fully felt. In previous financial and economic crises child mortality rates rose and school enrolment dropped, and there are already indications that this crisis – compounded by recent food and fuel price instability – is causing increases in poverty and malnutrition. Furthermore, many impacts of the crisis in developing countries, such as slowing growth, reduced demand and employment, and declining budgets are only beginning to unfold, severely threatening progress on health, education and child protection and leaving children with the long-term mental and physical repercussions of malnutrition.
Investing in children is not only a vital moral imperative, but also brings fundamental benefits to economies and societies. Ensuring that these investments continue during this crisis must be a priority of those involved in the response. Since the foundation of health and well being is laid in childhood, the most opportune time to break the cycle of poverty is during that time. Evidence consistently shows that where children and mothers have poor health, nutrition and education, they are likely to earn less, be less productive members of society and then pass this poverty on to the next generation. History shows that even in times of crisis, maintaining or even increasing necessary social sector expenditure is both possible and can significantly help in both ameliorating the negative effects of the crisis as well as ensuring a more accelerated and sustained recovery.
Donors should maintain their aid commitments during the financial and economic crisis. Maintaining aid flows will be critical in many countries in order to enable governments to maintain their budgets for basic services and the protection of children and women as domestic revenues decline. Furthermore, as donors and international organizations support governments in their policy response to the crisis, economic and budgetary advice must ensure that the best interests of the child are protected.
Maintaining national commitments to children and women is vital during this time of crisis. Programmes which support and protect children through basic health care and nutrition, clean water, basic education and child protection services must be maintained and, where possible, expanded. In some areas, additional responses focused on the most vulnerable should be introduced when appropriate to ensure the protection of children and other highly affected groups in society, including those impacted also by emergencies.
It is essential to maintain, and where possible increase, the collection of disaggregated data to effectively monitor the effects of the crisis on children and women. Consistent monitoring is needed to fully understand how the unfolding financial and economic crisis is impacting women and children in issues of health, education and child protection, and to give greater precision to policy responses. Disaggregated and real-time data from the local level will be particularly important to understand the impact the crisis is having on disparities within countries with particular emphasis on issues such as gender inequalities and urban-rural divides.
UNICEF’s work on the Economic Crisis:
UNICEF is constantly monitoring the situation of children on the ground in over 150 countries and territories. Current assessments are paying particular attention to the unfolding impacts the economic crisis is having on various aspects of children’s lives, to see how we can adjust and augment our programming, partnerships and support in areas such as health, nutrition, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, education and child and social protection and emergency response. For already vulnerable families, humanitarian assistance will also play a particularly important role in UNICEF operations. While information on the impacts of the crisis is still being built, the organizational response to the recent food price increases gives an example of possible future actions. As a result of these price increases, UNICEF identified 45 countries where children were at severe risk and allocated over $50 million of our resources towards programmes to provide an immediate response to the crisis and enhance nutritional security. UNICEF is also working with governments and other partners in 55 countries to help strengthen national measures to support the most vulnerable children.
UNICEF is also conducting economic and social policy research on the crisis, advocating for policy changes to protect children and providing governments with upstream policy advice and technical assistance. A key element of this work is the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), in which UNICEF works with over 50 countries to fill data gaps in monitoring the situation of women and children. We are also working with national governments to help ensure that budgets are child-friendly and that highly vulnerable children in the poorest families are supported as internal and external financial flows become threatened. Further, with the full impacts of the crisis on children and possible policy responses still uncertain, UNICEF is helping partners to build a stronger knowledge base for informing policy responses and implementing efficient programmes at scale.