Let’s Unite for Children!
© UNICEF Romania
This issue of the newsletter continues to look at the human impact of the economic crisis on children and families. This time, we look at the crisis through the perspective of service providers: Local authorities, NGOs, managers, and a residential institution.
What we find is a social safety net that is growing bigger holes by the day. The needs are greater, but the response is weaker. Even the richest local authority in the country is shedding protection workers at an alarming rate, and NGOs are disappearing through lack of resources.
One country, Arad, has lost 60% of its children’s NGOs which were helping to fill the gap left by shrinking government services. The process of decentralisation, predating the crisis, had seen friendlier, more humane local services emerge, many of which have become economically unviable since the austerity measures took effect.
Concurrently, the needs of vulnerable families have grown even as welfare benefits and services have been slashed. Remittances, once the main coping mechanism and buffer against the vagaries of life for hundreds of thousands of families, have been halved. The massive drain of professionals from the health and protection systems to Western Europe, and within the country, together with the budget cuts is sapping the capacity of health and social services to deliver, or indeed to ever recover from the present crisis.
These are issues which have not received a lot of attention, namely, the sheer human cost of the crisis and the erosion of the systems which have supported the poorest in bad times and good. What are the implications? Greater poverty, for sure. More hunger, almost certainly. More children out of school, absolutely. More socially excluded or “invisible children”, undoubtedly.
UNICEF is calling for greater official recognition of the impact of the crisis on children and their families and for the necessary measures to be taken to address the situation. Something has to be done to stop the haemorrhage of professionals and the decline of basic services. The right of children to first call on available resources in bad times as well as good needs to be acknowledged, otherwise the long term consequences will be dire and the next generation will grow up impaired by the experience of this crisis.
Every child has a right to equal opportunity, but the crisis is depriving more and more children of this opportunity. Now is the time to promote community action and support non-governmental initiatives to maintain a viable safety net. Encouraging and enabling easier access to EU Structural Funds would go a long way towards achieving this goal.
While current economic conditions are not exactly conducive to resource mobilisation, UNICEF’s efforts to raise funds for development initiatives continue in Romania. Two such activities are reported on in this issue of the Newsletter. We would like to once again thank all our supporters among the public and in the corporate sector for their generosity in these difficult times.
UNICEF Representative in Romania