UNICEF: 4m more children in poverty in eastern Europe and Russia due to war and inflation

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By Euronews  with AFP
Margaryta Tkachenko feeds her 9-month-old daughter Sophia in the recently liberated town of Izium, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022.
Margaryta Tkachenko feeds her 9-month-old daughter Sophia in the recently liberated town of Izium, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File

The war in Ukraine, and the resulting rise in the cost of living, has plunged millions more children into poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in recent months, warns a study by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) published on Monday.

The war in Ukraine and rising inflation have plunged an additional four million children into poverty — an increase of 19% since 2021 — the study says, stressing that children bear the brunt of the economic crisis caused by the conflict.

It claims that while children make up 25% of the population, they account for nearly 40% of the 10.6 million additional people in poverty this year.

The report, which covers 22 countries, says that Russia — with 2.8 million more children in poverty — accounts for almost three quarters of the total increase measured by UNICEF, which it says is due to the country's large population and the estimated damage to its economy.

"The repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine are extremely important in Russia, because the war is causing a deterioration in access to a certain number of basic products, to fuel or simply to a correct purchasing power due to inflation," Adeline Hazan, president of UNICEF France, told AFP.

Ukraine, meanwhile, is home to half a million more children living in poverty, putting it in second place, followed by Romania with 110,000 more children, the study notes.

"Unicef is sounding the alarm on the consequences of this war and is calling on governments to provide extremely strong support for social protection and to implement cash assistance programmes for the most vulnerable families with children," Hazan said.

The consequences of child poverty go far beyond the financial difficulties of families: the poorer a family is, the greater the proportion of its income spent on basic necessities such as food and fuel.

And when the cost of basic necessities soars, the money available for other needs such as health and education decreases. As a result, the poorest children are less likely to have access to essential services and are more vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse, the UN agency says.

The increase in child poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asia could result in an additional 4,500 children dying before their first birthday and 117,000 more children dropping out of school in 2022 alone, UNICEF warns.