This region continues to be highly exposed to natural hazards, political and social instability, major economic challenges, deteriorating infrastructure and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. In humanitarian situations, these challenges have multiple impacts upon the survival and well-being of children and mothers, including loss of life, injuries, displacement, protection concerns, health problems and lack of access to quality education.
Turkey remains a humanitarian hotspot that has received a huge influx of refugees from Syria, along with other emerging threats. Countries are also concerned about potential refugee flows from Afghanistan as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdraws its troops. And tensions in Ferghana Valley continue to impact the lives of children and adolescents in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The poorer countries of the region, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, remain extremely vulnerable economically and to the risks of natural hazards, and the growing anti-migrant sentiment in Russia may jeopardize the crucial regular remittances sent by Central Asia workers. The endemic poverty has left thousands of children and families without social safety net and without access to basic services, often leaving them exposed in times of disaster or extreme weather conditions.
The most severely affected are the poorest and most marginalized, such as Roma, who remain socially and economically vulnerable across Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
The global economic crisis has further exacerbated poverty in the region, even in the EU member states such as Bulgaria. Children of these communities often do not have access to adequate education, health care, support or protection. Psychosocial problems are also widespread.
Much of the region continues to face significant risks of civil unrest and political violence due to contested elections, human rights violations, unresolved ethnic self-determination issues and economic grievances. At the same time, restricted space for political participation and repression by some governments in the region have contributed to the rise of radicalized politico-religious groups that are willing to use violence, such as in parts of Russia and Central Asia.
UNICEF in action
UNICEF responds to emergencies in partnership with national governments, civil society organizations and other United Nations agencies by delivering relief and supporting long-term recovery.
In line with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee approach to humanitarian action and the Core Commitments to Children in Humanitarian Action, the Regional Office continues to work with country offices and humanitarian partners to plan and conduct emergency preparedness and contingency planning exercises to strengthen staff and partner capabilities to conduct timely and effective emergency response.
Collaboration with regional partners such as UNHCR, OCHA, WHO and WFP is also ensured through regular inter-agency consultations and joint field missions.
UNICEF is actively advocating for and supporting the integration of emergency preparedness into national policies and strategies. Some countries have integrated disaster risk reduction into their national education curriculum, with some schools’ staff and pupils knowing exactly what to do in the event of an emergency. UNICEF is also supporting those countries that are at greatest risk of disaster, as well as targeting help toward those most vulnerable, especially marginalized and excluded children.