Frequently asked questions
When did UNICEF start working in this region?
UNICEF has a long history in the region now known as Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS). Back in 1947, the children of Yugoslavia were among those to receive the first ever shipment of UNICEF emergency aid in the aftermath of World War II.
Over the following decades, UNICEF turned its attention to the growing needs of children in developing countries, becoming the world’s largest agency for children. Meanwhile, the countries of the Soviet bloc created National Committees to support the work of UNICEF worldwide. The first UNICEF National Committee in Europe was established in Yugoslavia in 1947, followed by Committees in other countries, including Bulgaria and Romania. These Committees raised money by selling UNICEF greeting cards and ran information campaigns on the needs of children in the developing world.
How did the regional office respond to the dramatic changes two decades ago which started the changes to the current the political, economic landscape of this region?
UNICEF responded to a crisis following the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 that remains a priority for us today – the situation of children in long-term residential care.
After the downfall of the Ceaucescu regime in Romania, a horrified world saw the suffering of 150,000 children living in appalling conditions in state orphanages. UNICEF was one of the first international organisations to react, working with the Romanian UNICEF National Committee to rush drugs and medical equipment to 200 children’s institutions.
A year later, the UNICEF Executive Board approved an initial programme of support for the region. In 1991, UNICEF programmes were launched in Romania and in Albania. In the same year, UNICEF began to send emergency help to children caught up in the conflict in former Yugoslavia.
It was clear that the entire region was facing economic collapse and was under great strain. The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy, began to collect data on the effects of transition on families, women, men and children. This regular collection and analysis of data became known as MONEE (Monitoring in Eastern Europe). Its findings were grim. Prices for food and other essentials were spiralling upwards and jobs were vanishing. Family incomes, and purchasing power, collapsed. Children, pensioners, young families with small children and ethnic minorities were hardest hit. There were severe cutbacks on Government spending on health, education and social services.
The social costs included higher infant mortality and malnutrition rates, a rapid increase in adult male death rates, falling school enrolment and a mounting crime wave.
When was the Regional Office for CEE/CIS created?
It was created in 1994 and was initially based at UNICEF’s New York headquarters. It was relocated to Geneva in 1996.
What is the role of the Regional Office?
The Regional Office is a hub for information, guidance, coordination and expertise for UNICEF Country Offices across the region. It also supports these Offices in their efforts to mobilise much-needed resources.
The Regional Office advocates at regional level for investment in children and for child-centred social policies. It liaises with major intergovernmental bodies on region-wide children’s issues, such as the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. And it aims to develop regional partnerships for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The staff include specialist advisers on child protection, communication, early childhood development, education, health, HIV, immunization, monitoring and evaluation, nutrition and social policy.
The team is led by Regional Director Marie-Pierre Poirier and Deputy Regional Director Kirsi Madi.
Updated August 2013