‘RM Child-Health’: safeguarding the health of refugee and migrant children in Europe
More than 1.3 million children have made their way to Europe since 2014, fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in their own countries. They include at least 225,000 children travelling alone – most of them teenage boys – as well as 500,000 children under the age of five. In 2019 alone, almost 32,000 children (8,000 of them unaccompanied or separated) reached Europe via the Mediterranean after perilous journeys from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and many parts of Africa – journeys that have threatened their lives and their health. Many have come from countries with broken health systems, travelling for months (even years) with no access to health care and facing the constant risks of violence and exploitation along the way. Many girls and boys arriving in Europe have missed out on life-saving immunization and have experienced serious distress or even mental health problems. They may be carrying the physical and emotional scars of violence, including sexual abuse. The health of infants and mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding has been put at risk by a lack of pre- and post-natal health services and of support for child nutrition. Two girls wash a pot in the common washing area of the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria, on the island of Lesvos, in Greece. Two girls wash a pot in the common washing area of the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria, on the island of Lesvos, in Greece. Child refugees and migrants also face an increased health risk as a result of crowded and unhygienic living conditions during their journeys and at their destinations. Even upon their arrival in Europe, refugee and migrant children and families often face continued barriers to their health care, such as cultural issues, bureaucracy, and a lack of information in their own language. Southern and South East European countries are at the heart of this challenge, struggling to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children. And now, an already serious problem is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Refugee checks on his son
What we do
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
Our goals for children
Half of all deaths among children under the age of five in the Region occur in the first month of life. 400,000 children under the age of one have not received the recommended three doses of DTP vaccine, and immunization rates are falling because of system failures and vaccine hesitancy. Less than 30 per cent of Roma children are fully immunized in parts of the Balkan countries. Only 32 per cent of babies in the Region are exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life – one of the lowest rates worldwide.
Work with UNICEF
A day at the office can mean many things to a UNICEF staff member It could mean talking with a 14-year-old former child soldier about their experiences, or finding funding for vital supplies for children during an emergency, or dedicating each day to efforts to eradicate a killer disease. It's not all drama, of course. Much of the organization's work is all but invisible: securing funding for HIV/AIDS or immunization programmes, for example, or chipping away at political inertia, or setting up structures for effective emergency response. And there's the vital task of building alliances with local communities, helping them to ensure the education, protection and well-being of their own children. This selection of UNICEF staff profiles aims to give you an insight into the way the organization works, day by day, to improve the lives of individual children around the world. Interested in a similar job?
UNICEF ambassadors in Europe and Central Asia
TV presenter, producer, journalist, author and editor Andreea Marin has been a voice for children in Romania as a National Ambassador since 2006. Andreea has championed children’s rights, including improving access to immunization and preventing family separation in numerous telethons, campaigns and other public events. Gheorghe Hagi Romania