Action for children
UNICEF works for and with children and young people across 21 countries and territories in Europe and Central Asia (ECA). This is a Region with resources to meet the needs of every citizen. Yet, too often, the poorest children –those living with disabilities, those who are refugees and migrants, and those from ethnic minorities – are left behind.
UNICEF is committed to giving every child in the Region a fair chance to be healthy, educated, protected and included. We support children who are affected by humanitarian crises, and mitigate the impact of natural disasters. We provide solid evidence on what works in the best interests of children. We work with governments to roll out child-focused programmes nationally.
All of our actions contribute to the ECA-wide efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).
In a Region of middle- and high-income countries, it is possible to ensure that every child is thriving, learning, protected and participating in the world around them.Yet in Europe and Central Asia, too many children are still left behind. It is only by reaching the most vulnerable children that countries across the Region will achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
for every child, good health
By 2021: Every country in the Region has 95 per cent of its children at national level, and at least 80 per cent in every district, vaccinated with diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP 3) or the Penta vaccine, which protects children against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
SDG 3 (ensure healthy lives) target 3.8: Achieve universal health coverage, including effective, quality and essential medicines and vaccines for all.
- 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.
UNICEF in action
- We help governments strengthen their health systems, including the skills of health workers, while mobilizing public demand for good health care.
- We help governments transform care for newborns so they have the healthiest start in life.
- We help governments procure vaccines and support national immunization campaigns to tackle outbreaks and vaccination myths.
- We support programmes that link mothers, children and adolescents to HIV prevention and care services and enhance treatment and support.
for every child, a quality education
By 2021, 700,000 girls and boys who would have otherwise been out of school are enrolled in high quality, inclusive pre-primary, primary and secondary education.
SDG 4 (quality education for all) target 4.1: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
- 5.8 million children and adolescents, typically aged 5 to 17, are out of school across the Region.
- Only 60 per cent of children, typically aged 3 to 5, are enrolled in pre-primary schooling.
- Of the estimated 5.1 million children with disabilities in the Region, only 1.5 million are registered as having a disability, and only 15 per cent of these children attend any school, leaving around 4.7 million out of school.
- Under half of all Roma children are enrolled in lower and upper secondary school, compared to a Regional average of 85 per cent.
UNICEF in action
- We work with partners to expand access to quality pre-schooling so that all children arriving at primary school are ready to make the most of their education.
- We aim to make all schools inclusive, helping to increase the number of children and adolescents with disabilities who attend regular schools.
- We support monitoring to identify children who are out of school or at risk of dropping out, so governments can direct resources to where they are most needed.
- We prioritize education for refugee and migrant children.
for every child, safety from harm
By 2021, zero children in institutional care in the Region.
SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) target 16.2: end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.
- Around 664,000 children in the Region are growing up in institutional care - this is more than five times higher than the global average.
- Around 50 per cent of the children and adolescents in institutional care in the Region are living with disabilities.
- Most unaccompanied migrant and refugee children are hosted in sub-standard reception facilities and do not get the appropriate care they need.
- Around half of all children and adolescents across the Region experience physical or psychological aggression at home.
- At least 20 million children live below national poverty lines.
UNICEF in action
- We work with governments to prevent family separation, support outreach to vulnerable families to catch problems before they escalate, and develop community-based services to address the complex needs of children and families.
- We help governments to systematically increase the number of qualified professional social workers and expand services such as daycare, fostering and small family-style group homes.
- We work with governments to break the silence on violence and to strengthen services that prevent and respond to violence.
- We work with partners to build national systems to protect children from the impact of poverty, monitoring child poverty and making the case for measures such as child benefits.
for every child, a voice
By 2021, 20 million adolescents in the Region, including the most vulnerable, have a chance to be connected, engaged and empowered.
SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) target 16.7: ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.
- 2.7 million adolescents of lower and upper secondary age are not in school, with those who feel unwelcome and excluded most likely to drop out.
- In Bulgaria and Romania, over 70 per cent of young people, aged 16 to 30, say they feel excluded from economic, social and democratic life.
- In Ukraine, only around half of all girls and boys, aged 15, see their families as highly supportive.
- Almost one quarter of young people in the Region are not in education, employment or training.
UNICEF in action
- We support the creation of legislation, policies, partnerships and programmes that recognize adolescents as one of the Region’s greatest assets.
- We work to shift attitudes and social norms that under-value adolescents, aiming to amplify their voices and their influence.
- We help to build the skills, confidence and abilities of adolescents so that they can make an active contribution to the decisions that shape their lives.
- We work alongside adolescents to design and create health, education and social systems and services that serve their needs and enhance their wellbeing.