The situation for children in Europe and Central Asia

National economic and social progress across Europe and Central Asia masks pockets of disadvantage. Time and again, particular children are denied the care and protection their peers experience.


A region that has transformed itself

Europe and Central Asia has experienced tremendous change since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago. 

The 21 countries and territories in the region where UNICEF has Country and Programme Offices have seen rapid transformation of their social structures, societies, infrastructure and borders. Today, economic growth is holding steady, and the region can be proud that its incomes and standard of living are increasing. 

But challenges remain. Inequalities are deepening in many places the most vulnerable citizens - including children - too often find themselves excluded from the progress experienced by others.   

Disadvantaged and excluded children can be found in every part of the region, and these children are the focus of UNICEF’s work across Europe and Central Asia.

The region continues to face major equity gaps in the realization of all rights for all children, with particular children more likely than others to miss out on services and opportunities. They include the poorest children, children with disabilities, children from particular ethnic communities, and children living in residential institutions or juvenile detention.  

They are also the children caught in one of the world’s biggest refugee and migrant crises and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The most disadvantaged children are too often denied the care and protection experienced by their peers. National systems, such as education, health, child protection and social welfare systems could, and should, meet the needs of every child – including the most vulnerable. 

Greater investment in these children would help maximize the impact of the economic and social progress already being made across the region, ensuring that everyone enjoys the benefits of that progress. Investments that support vulnerable children represent a sound investment in the future, with massive returns in terms of health, well-being and productivity.