Ending Child Poverty

To lift children and families out of poverty we need to build a child-sensitive social protection system

A child sitting on the doorstep of an old blue door
UNICEF/2017/Georgiev

The challenge

One out of four children in the country faces impacts their development and life prospects due to exposure to poverty. More than 100,000 children currently live in a situation of poverty or deprivation.

Many of these children face the risk of impaired brain and physical development. In fact, poverty-facing children are as much as four times more likely to be stunted i.e. to be shorter, compared to the average height for their age.

But it doesn’t stop there. Poverty can also harm children through the negative effects it has on their families. For instance, children from poor families are more exposed to violent forms of disciplining and more likely to be married before their 18th birthday. Poverty also creates and widens achievement gaps; only one out of 300 children living in poverty goes to pre-school, and only 2/3 of children coming from poor families finish high school. These are all factors that cripple the chances of children and their parents to break the cycle of poverty.  

Some children are harder hit

Only 1 in 10 children from Pelagonija are affected by poverty, while every second child living in the North-East is facing this issue. Families with children are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty than those that don’t have any children.

And, children living in single parent households, are particularly vulnerable, as are children coming from families that have three or more children.

Social transfers are important but not enough

Programmes to lift children out of poverty have huge potential, but are currently quite ineffective. Social benefits, such as cash transfers are not only inadequate in amount, failing to cover the basic financial security of families with children, but they often hamper and stigmatize parents in securing work and additional income that can lift the families out of poverty.

Other barriers that contribute to the problem include inappropriate access to information on entitlements and employment programmes for families; application burdens for applicants to social benefits; and limited access to essential services such as quality pre-schools in areas most affected with poverty. There is a complex relationship between poverty and discrimination. Discrimination contributes to poverty, but, poverty may also isolate some people and impose a social stigma, which results in discrimination. Children coming from poverty-affected families often face discrimination when trying to access education, health services etc., as well as a lack of support from the community because of societal stigma.

The solution

To lift children and families out of poverty, we need a holistic approach to help them “stand on their feet”. Children need free and accessible health services, free access to quality pre-school and cash benefits that make a difference to their well-being. Parents needs support to return to the labour market and training and counseling to help them raise happy, healthy, successful children who are contributing members of the society.

Together with the Government and other partners, UNICEF is working on reforms in the social protection system, making it more child-sensitive. We need a social protection system that provides basic financial security for children through meaningful and effective social transfers, while also allowing time and opportunities for their parents to better provide for their families.

We are working to ensure that every child in the country has a chance to survive and thrive. We are committed to stop child poverty from becoming a legacy and to making sure that families affected by poverty can finally break that cycle of poverty.