Europe and Central Asia has surpassed global progress on child mortality, more than halving the deaths of children under five and infants since 1990. And as progress for the poorest households has accelerated, the health gap between the richest and poorest has narrowed. However, persistent inequities reflect a continued failure to invest effectively in child-centred health systems for all. In South-East Europe, for example, child mortality among the Roma population is two to three times higher than national averages. Problems missed at an early age can be more difficult and expensive to address later in life. Such inequities are compounded by a failure to spot problems during pregnancy and during the first 1,000 days of life, when children’s bodies and brains build the foundations for their life-long development. Problems missed at an early age can be far more difficult and expensive to address later in life. Across the region, more than half of the children who die before their fifth birthday die in their first month of life.These deaths are often the result of conditions that are readily preventable or treatable at low cost through, for example, access to good obstetric, ante-natal and post-natal care, routine immunization and exclusive breastfeeding . The main killers of children under the age of five in the region are also preventable: pneumonia and injuries. Emergencies have an intense impact on child health and nutrition. The impact of emergencies on children's health and nutrition can be extreme. Children on the move, such as those caught in Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis , for example, often lack adequate clothing, food, shelter or warmth. Access to health services, including immunization, has often been inadequate on their journey. The region’s existing HIV prevalence, coupled with lack of safe water and sanitation, as well as ongoing challenges related to early child development and protection all heighten the vulnerability of children during emergencies. The region is also experiencing vaccine ‘hesitancy’ – the reluctance of some parents to immunize their children, or parental delays in immunization . This hesitancy, often fuelled by misinformation, puts children at risk of contracting, and even dying from, infectious diseases, including polio and measles.
Conflict in Ukraine
"Before he got hit, Sasha was like a proper child. Now he seems like a grown up. He can tell from the sounds what type of weapon is firing." - 12-year-old Sasha's guardian talking about the changes in him since he was shot in the ankle by a stray bullet. After nearly five years of conflict in eastern Ukraine, 3.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance – 60 per cent of them are women and children. Approximately 1.6 million people have been forced from their homes and tens of thousands of civilians have been killed or wounded. The situation is particularly grave for girls and boys living in areas with the fiercest fighting: Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts – within 15 kilometres of the ‘contact line’ – a line that divides government- from non-government-controlled areas. Children face the immediate threats posed by the conflict, and the long-term impact of lost education and trauma. Children living in these areas face grave threats from shelling, landmines and unexploded ordnance. Their lives are also threatened by destruction of vital civilian infrastructure – health centres, schools and water supplies – as a result of the fighting. Millions of people depend on water infrastructure that is in the line of fire. Aleksey washes his face and his missing fingers are highlighted. Aleksey, 14, lost two fingers and a thumb when a discarded shell exploded in his hand. Education – so crucial for a child’s sense of ‘normalcy’ – has been shattered, with more than one in five schools in eastern Ukraine damaged or destroyed. Teachers and psychologists report signs of severe psychosocial distress among children, including nightmares, social withdrawal and panic attacks triggered by loud noises. More than one in four children in Donetsk and Luhansk are thought to need psychosocial support. Few, however, get that support, as the available services are over-stretched and under-funded. “It is extremely painful to recall how we almost died twice. It is hard for us to talk about how we had to leave behind everything we had – a home, a job and friends – so we could stay alive.” - Amina, aged 12, from the village of Mykolaivka in Donestk, now living in Kiev. Immunization coverage has been undermined by a combination of conflict, lack of vaccines and vaccine hesitancy (a reluctance among parents to have their children immunized). The country experienced polio outbreaks in 2015 and is at high risk for polio transmission, according to the Polio Regional Certification Committee.
What we do
UNICEF works with and for disadvantaged children and adolescents in 21 countries and territories across Europe and Central Asia. Our ambition is to get the entire region working together - as one - on behalf of its most vulnerable children. Explore the different areas of our work below. Students, some with disabilities, participate in a UNICEF photography workshop in Azerbaijan Adolescents A mother and her three children in Georgia. The family live in extreme poverty but with UNICEF's support they have managed to stay together. Child poverty A conflict-affected girl takes part in a celebration of the International Children's Day in Svyatohirsk, eastern Ukraine. The event was organized by the Community Protection Centre supported by UNICEF. Child protection Stanislava, 15, lives in a family type placement centre for children with disabilities and attends mainstream school. Children with disabilities A baby and her sister play together in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Early childhood development Children at a refugee centre in Turkey draw on paper at a school Education Kindergarden children practice an emergency response drill at a school in Kyrgyzstan. Emergencies 11-year-old Ajsa is photographed in front of a laptop, with her head in her hands. Ending violence against children A female student attends a networking meeting at a school in Tajikistan. Gender A newborn baby in a hospital in Kyrgyzstan that was entirely rehabilitated by UNICEF. Health A woman loads vaccine into a syringe Immunization Headshot of a Roma girl looking directly at the camera Roma and ethnic minority children
UNICEF seeks $3.6 billion in emergency assistance for 48 million children caught up in catastrophic humanitarian crises
Provide 35.7 million people with access to safe water; Reach 8.9 million children with formal or non-formal basic education; Immunize 10 million children against measles; Provide psychosocial support to over 3.9 million children; Treat 4.2 million children with severe acute malnutrition.
UNICEF commemorates 70 years of tireless work for the world’s most vulnerable children
– On the 70th anniversary of its founding, UNICEF celebrates the immense progress made for the world’s children – and renews the urgent call to reach millions of children whose lives and futures are endangered by conflict, crisis, poverty, inequality and discrimination. “UNICEF was founded after World War II to bring help and hope to all children at risk or in need – no matter which country they lived in or what role that country played in the war. Our mission is no less urgent and universal today,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “With so many children around the world in so much need, we are recommitting ourselves to delivering results for every child.” The organization was established by the United Nations General Assembly to help children in post-war Europe, China and the Middle East. Funded entirely through voluntary contributions from governments, civil society, the private sector and concerned citizens, it rapidly expanded its reach and by 1955 was working for children in more than 90 countries. Today, UNICEF is the world’s largest children’s organization, working with partners in 190 countries and territories and through the efforts of 13,000 national and international staff to reach every child. UNICEF’s relentless engagement in the world’s toughest places has helped create remarkable progress for children in recent decades. The number of children dying before their fifth birthdays has been more than halved in the past 25 years. Hundreds of millions of children have been lifted out of poverty. Out-of-school rates among primary-school-aged children have been reduced by more than 40 per cent since 1990. In the 1940s, UNICEF provided emergency nutrition aid, mainly in the form of milk, to children in post-war Europe. In 2015, the organization and its partners treated 2.9 million children for severe acute malnutrition worldwide. In the 1950s, UNICEF led its first immunization campaigns against diseases such as tuberculosis and yaws. In 2015, the organization procured 2.8 billion doses of vaccines, and with its partners helping to protect 45 per cent of children under 5 years old worldwide from a range of deadly diseases. In 1953, UNICEF launched its first water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. Between 1990 and 2015, 2.6 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources and 2.1 billion gained access to improved sanitation facilities. In 1961, UNICEF expanded its programmatic focus to include children’s education. In 2015, UNICEF and its partners provided 7.5 million children aged 3 to 18 with access to formal or non-formal basic education. In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specifies that all children should be registered at birth to establish their identity under the law and thus to safeguard their rights. In 2015, UNICEF supported the registration of more than 9.7 million children’s births in 54 countries. In 1998, UNICEF became a founding member of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to support malaria treatment and research, and expand prevention measures such as long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets. In 2015, UNICEF procured 22.3 million bed nets to protect children and families in 30 countries. Since its founding, UNICEF has responded to thousands of humanitarian emergencies affecting children. In 2015, UNICEF and partners vaccinated 11.3 million children against measles in countries affected by crisis; provided 4 million children in emergency situations with access to formal or non-formal basic education; and provided psychosocial support for 2 million children caught in conflicts and natural disasters. Despite this impressive progress, millions of children are still being left behind because they live in poverty or in hard-to-reach communities, because of their gender, race, religion, ethnic group, or because they have a disability. Nearly 250 million children are growing up in countries affected by conflict and nearly 50 million children have been uprooted from their homes. “UNICEF’s vision for the next 70 years is a world in which our work is no longer necessary -- a world in which every child is healthy, safe, educated, cared for and protected … and all children can make the most of their potential,” said Lake. “It’s the right thing to do, and the surest path to a better future for us all.”
Nearly a quarter of the world’s children live in conflict or disaster-stricken countries
In the 1950s, UNICEF’s first immunization campaigns targeted diseases such as tuberculosis and yaws. In 2015, UNICEF procured 2.8 billion doses of vaccines, helping to protect 45 per cent of the world’s children under age 5 from deadly diseases. In 1998, UNICEF became a founding member of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to support malaria treatment and research, and expand prevention measures such as long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets. In 2015, UNICEF procured 22.3 million bed nets to protect children and families in 30 countries.