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Pacific Island children and the global economic crisis

Pacific Island children must have first call on resources:
UNICEF Pacific and the Global Economic Crisis


1. The rise in food prices, spikes in the cost of fuel, and the deepening global economic crisis (GEC) present severe risks to the wellbeing of children and women around the world. The threats presented by climate change can be added to this volatile mix. Children and women living in Small Island Developing States such as the Pacific Islands are especially vulnerable. The combined impacts of these crises threaten to undo years of poverty alleviation, child survival and education. The International Monetary Fund has estimated that a 10 per cent increase in food prices has pushed a further 105 million people into poverty on top of the 600 million already living on less than US$1 a day in the Asia and Pacific region. The lessons of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis provide strong evidence of significant adverse effects on child health and nutrition, especially among the most vulnerable women and children.

2. All Pacific island countries and territories (PICTS) are vulnerable to the impact of increased food and fuel prices and the deeper impacts of the global economic crisis and climate change. The impacts, however, are variable from country to country and at community and household level. Vulnerability of PICTs is due largely to, amongst other factors: the already high cost of commodity transportation, with ships importing goods to PICTs returning empty because of limited exports; limited alternatives to bio-fuel (this is occurring globally, including PICTs) with heavy reliance on diesel-generated electricity; pre-existing levels of poverty especially among urban squatter settlements, rural areas and outer islands; the lack of robust social protection mechanisms and safety nets in all PICTs (except Fiji which has a Family Assistance Programme); the demand for modern, imported foods because of changing diets and lifestyle aspirations; atoll islands at risk of sea inundation with poor soils and generally limited agricultural production; vulnerability to national disasters; the isolation of inhabited islands; poor infrastructure and transportation facilities which hinder between- and within-country trading, affecting both imported and locally produced foods; unfavorable fiscal policy environments; and weak budgetary positions.

3. The rise in the prices of food and fuel and the global economic crisis in particular present the following concerns for UNICEF Pacific: (a) there is increased risk of mortality in the short term; (b) there is increased risk of nutrition insecurity in the short term in the most vulnerable and marginalized populations and groups – special attention is needed for children under 5 years of age and especially 12 to 24 months olds (going through a period of maximum brain and body development), pregnant and lactating women; (c) there is increased risk of child labour and other abuses of children; (d) there is risk of major medium and long term consequences for child health, nutrition and education outcomes; (e) the need for urgent and unified efforts to mitigate the consequences and ensure that progress towards the MDGs, especially education and child and maternal mortality, is not impeded or reversed; (f) there are evidence-based interventions which can ameliorate the adverse effects of these crises, with the potential of preventing 20-50% of child deaths – government and development partner commitment to invest in these interventions must be maintained despite the global economic crisis.

What steps is UNICEF Pacific taking to help countries respond to the GEC ?

4. The overall strategic response of UNICEF Pacific is to help governments to:
• Rapidly assess and analyze the situation in the 10 high to high/medium priority countries (Kiribati, RMI, FSM, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji Islands, Niue, Tuvalu).
• Set up early warning and monitoring systems in the 10 high to high/medium priority countries.
• Respond to immediate needs and fast-track interventions already identified in the current multi-country programme, with 2009 as the year to mainstream the mitigation measures in the 10 prioritized countries.
• Maintain a watching brief on the situation for children and women in the remaining 4 Pacific Island countries.

5. The above work has already commenced since Maywithin two streams of work to develop response frameworks and commitments: 
Stream A – a 4 month (May-August 2009) high intensity phase of monitoring and advocacy in the 10 high/medium priority countries to assist governments/CSOs in the initial and future tracking of the impacts of the food,  fuel and economic crises (to be followed by articulation of and multiple partner support for national response plans streamlined into medium-term expenditure frameworks, budgeting cycles, etc):
 • health service delivery/uptake + health/nutrition status of children impacts (sentinel sites – early warning);
 • education service delivery + school enrolment/attendance status (sentinel sites – early warning);
 • social sector budgeting and expenditure (key budget items for children including health, education, social welfare, HIV, and National Disaster Management Office support – early warning of withdrawal of funds);
 • opinions of children, young people and women (sentinel sites).

Summary of first round sentinel site monitoring finding can be found at this link (PDF) “Summary-Voices of Vulnerable in the Pacific”
Stream B – Commissioned analysis of any impacts felt in the Pacific from the Asian 1997 crisis (and other crisis where relevant – viz. a detailed look at under five mortality rates and other key social indicators and correspondence with economic trends and shocks) and with other partners, early analysis of the current situation including child poverty analysis work already commenced in 3 countries Click here for child poverty and disparity study in Vanuatu , and examination of social safety nets (latter through work already underway with ADB, AusAID and NZAID).

6. Early findings from both streams of work will be presented at a Commonwealth Secretariat/ UNICEF/UNRISD/University of South Pacific/UNDP/UNESCAP “Social Policy in Pacific Islands” meeting July 21-23 2009 in Suva, Fiji.

The outcome of the workshop and related research can be found at this link (PDF) “Social security spending in the time of crisis”

This was followed by discussion of key results and commitments at a high level regional meeting held in Vanuatu in February 2010. Child and youth delegates from seven Pacific Island Countries, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga, also participated as part of the official delegation. The youngest delegate was from Palau and she has expressed the priority areas of concerns for children and youth in the Pacific in the context of GEC during the opening of the conference. (Click the links on the right for statement) This statement of voices of children and youth were formulated during the Youth Pre-conference to the Human Face of the Global Economic Crisis by the youth themselves. (Click the links on the right more detail on Youth Pre-conference)

Visit for more info on high level Pacific Conference on Human Face of the Global Economic Crisis.

7. Sentinel site early warning monitoring system was rolled out in Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the countries are currently preparing to roll out for 2nd round data collection in country. Fiji is also joined this year to commence data collection. In order to assist the governments improve the monitoring system, UNICEF alongside other UN agencies will host the “Regional Workshop on Sentinel Site Monitoring-Recovery with Human Face” from June 28-July 2, 2010 at Holiday Inn, Suva, Fiji.

Click on the link below to find more on the workshop.



Regional Workshop on the Sentinel Site Monitoring – Recovery with the Human Face





Opening Statement by Ms Danielle Willis, Child Delegate from Palau, 10th February 2010, Port Vila, Vanuatu

Youth Outcome Statement_youth pre-conference

Protecting Pacific Island children and women during economic and food crises

Offers a rapid synopsis of the food price rise and global economic crises together with their known and potential impacts on Pacific Island children and women including lessons learned from previous crises. Provides guidance on real-time monitoring to better understand the situation of children and women in the Pacific. Outlines social policy options to help protect Pacific Island children and women now and in future crises.

(PDF documents require Acrobat Reader to view.)

Children in times of economic crisis: Past lessons, future policies

How do economic shocks, in particular the current economic downturn, affect the wellbeing of children? What can be done to mitigate harm? This paper explores these questions, presents a framework for analysing the impact of shocks on children in different contexts, and suggests initial policy implications.

(PDF documents require Acrobat Reader to view.)

Impact of the Financial Crisis on Children - Conference Report

A summary of the key findings and policy recommendations from the high level regional conference on the global financial crisis and its impact on children, Singapore, January 6-7, 2009

(PDF documents require Acrobat Reader to view.)

Aggregate Shocks, Poor Household and Children: Transmission Channels and Policy Responses

This paper maps the different channels through which the effects of the global financial coupled with food and fuel price volatility could be transmitted to the developing world and illustrates a basic framework of shock transmission from the macro- to the micro-levels.

(PDF documents require Acrobat Reader to view.)

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