'Devastating': One in four EU children at risk of poverty, says NGO

Residents watch Pope Francis meeting with members of the Roma community at Lunik IX, in Kosice, Slovakia, Sept. 14, 2021.
Residents watch Pope Francis meeting with members of the Roma community at Lunik IX, in Kosice, Slovakia, Sept. 14, 2021. Copyright AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
By Euronews
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Children with migrant backgrounds, refugees, asylum-seekers, undocumented and unaccompanied children are among the hardest hit.

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The number of children driven to the brink of poverty in the European Union grew by 200,000 in 2021 to reach 19.6 million, according to Save the Children.

A report by the NGO released on Tuesday states that one in four children in the bloc was on the brink of poverty and social exclusion at the end of 2021 due to a combination of factors including cost of living, the climate crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in a loss of income for many families.

Eric Großhaus, advocacy manager child poverty and social inequality at Save the Children Germany, described the figure as "devastating" and urged Germany, which accounts for over 10% of children living in poverty in the EU, "to finally deliver on its promises to tackle child poverty."

But Romania and Spain had the highest percentage of children at risk of poverty with rates reaching 41.5% and 33.4% respectively. Meanwhile, Finland and Slovenia had the lowest shares, with low teen readings. 

The situation in some countries for which the NGO collected more recent data is likely to have become bleaker due to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the negative consequences it has had on food and energy prices.

Forty per cent of Romanian households, for instance, saw their income decrease in 2022 compared to the previous year. This despite their expenses growing by 98%, according to the NGO.

Children with migrant backgrounds, refugees, asylum-seekers, undocumented and unaccompanied children are among the hardest hit. Also are risk are children in single-parent families, large-disadvantaged families, children with disabilities, and children belonging to ethnic minorities.

Save the Children said it sees hope in the implementation of the European Child Guarantee to prevent and combat social exclusion by guaranteeing effective access of children to a set of key services including free early childhood education and care, free education, free healthcare, healthy nutrition and adequate housing.

The proposal was introduced by the Commission in 2019 with the Council adopting the proposed recommendation in June 2021. Yet, only 19 of the bloc's 27 member states have submitted the National Action Plan they were required to come up with by mid-March 2022.

"The European Child Guarantee holds the key to addressing the growing inequality and providing a better future for millions of children. Governments must ensure that they fully harness this once-in-a-generation anti-child poverty framework and use national action plans to correctly implement it," Save the Children Europe Director said in a statement.

"Now is the time for bold decisions and strategic funding to rapidly expand protection and mitigate the downfall of the crises for current and future generations of children," she added.

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