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Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Lost Generation: Child Poverty in Ukraine amid War with Russia

A UN research claims that 4 million children in eastern Europe and Central Asia are now living in poverty

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UKRAINE: The world has been plunged into a great abyss of death, violence, and destruction over the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, deepening a chasm into the lives of innocent, powerless, and economically-challenged communities who are now struggling to survive without basic necessities as bombs fall from the sky. 

The ones who have been victimized and affected the most in the Russia-Ukraine war happen to be young, guiltless children, from the milk ages of a few months to adolescent teenagers, who have been gripped by the horror unfolding before them.

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A UN research claims that 4 million children in eastern Europe and Central Asia are now living in poverty as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the economic consequences. According to UNICEF, “Children are paying the worst burden of the economic catastrophe brought on by the war in Ukraine.”

4 million more children in eastern Europe and Central Asia are now living in poverty as a result of the violence and growing inflation, a 19 percent rise since 2021, the report claimed. A study of data from 22 countries was used by UNICEF to arrive at its conclusions.

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The second-highest percentage of children living in poverty are found in Ukraine, where there are another half a million of them. With roughly 2.8 million children now residing in families with incomes below the federal poverty line, Russia, the originator of the crisis in Ukraine, leads the list.

Back in 2021, UNICEF released an extensive report entitled Child Poverty and Disparities in Ukraine, underlining the sociological impact of child poverty born out of war and conflict in Ukraine between 2018-19. The report stresses how displacement, dispossession, and forced migration lead to a chronic festering of childcare infrastructure in war-torn areas.

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The report further emphasizes that systemic failure to provide ample social, economic, and mental security to these needy children could have irreversible, negative effects on their mortality, mental health, and future prospects. 

As a prelude to the report, Lotta Sylwander, the UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, addressed the misconception that poverty is about a lack of money. She added, ”It is indeed, more about shattered dreams and lost opportunities.” 

”Children suffer differently than adults, as the lack of resources crumbles their formative growth early in life. Boys and girls from low-income families suffer lifelong consequences, as poverty affects their physical, social and cognitive development,” she continued further.

UNICEF has pledged to dedicate its funds to the betterment of impoverished children in Ukraine, a funding campaign sponsored by one hundred and ninety-three members of the United Nations, joined under Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Ukraine has committed to the values and goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is the first global commitment to reducing child poverty. For the first time at the official level, children were declared to be the socio-demographic group most vulnerable to poverty. 

The necessity to analyze the issue of child poverty in Ukraine

It is necessary to analyze the issue of child poverty in Ukraine since a fifth of the population constitutes children. 

Over the last fifteen years, the government has experienced two revolutions and the global economic crisis, faced a conflict in its eastern regions, and is now rooted in the heart of active war. Since 2015, absolute child poverty has been on the decline, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war could now potentially reverse these gains and lead children back into poverty.

The report’s key findings suggest the following (to name a few): firstly, poverty rates are highest in families with three or more children. Secondly, children in the youngest age groups, under 3, are the most vulnerable.

Thirdly, the poverty rates are substantially high if there is an unemployed person in the family, especially the sole breadwinner. Fourthly, only a considerable number of Ukrainian families survive over the poverty line.

Finally, inequality at birth via limited access to childcare services like medical treatment and education, generational poverty, and lack of social necessities to maintain a basic standard of living are some of the major reasons why child poverty stems so deep.

The report’s visual representation of degrees of child poverty rates across Ukraine suggests that absolute poverty is very high in the Rivne Oblast, while high degrees were found centered in the northern oblasts of Kherson, Donetsk, and Kyiv. Medium to Low degrees of child poverty was spotted in the southeast, while the lowest rates were recorded in Kyiv city.

Under certain circumstances, the risk of sudden poverty is increased by childbirth in a young family, especially for those with a lower level of pay. The poverty rate among couples aged 18-35 without children is 5.7 percent (relative) and 12.1 percent (absolute). If a child is born, this risk immediately grows to 23.4 percent or 34.8 percent respectively.

By deprivation of funds allotted for children’s education, food, housing, and utilities, about 33 percent of the Ukrainian household with children were in deep trouble. With the arrival of the third child, a striking leap in the deprivation level occurs, up to 49.4 percent (compared to 38.9 percent in households with two children).

The poverty rate of single-parent families is considerably higher than that of families with two children (52.2 percent versus 38.9 percent), which even exceeds the deprivation poverty of families with many children (49.4 percent).

Moreover, almost one in six children suffers from their family not being able to afford a square meal with meat or chicken every second day or to buy new clothes and footwear as required. One in ten urban children suffers from a severe shortage of living space (less than 5 square meters per person).

Migration, which is often seen as a positive prospect change in a household’s geographical residence, borne out of the desire to secure better economic opportunities over the longer term, has affected children severely. About 54.6 percent of migrant workers have children who have settled abroad due to low labor remuneration rates in Ukraine.

Although migration can help to achieve family financial stability, research indicates that when there are no parents around, this is likely to cause considerable damage to a child’s social and psychological development. Academic performance worsens in households without one or more parents present. 

Child poverty goes hand-in-hand with child labor and exploitation. While short-term child labor may significantly reinforce collective income for the family, the long-term effects can be damaging and simply perpetuate hardships.

In recent years, the involvement of children in amber extraction has become a massive phenomenon in some areas, the report suggests. Child labor in Donbas private mines and pits is another way in which children are exploited.

Child trafficking forced begging, and sexual exploitation is just a few of the vile measures through which child poverty and disparity are perpetuated in Ukraine. 

UNICEF reports about 70,000 women and girls provide commercial sex in Ukraine, including 15,000 aged 14-19. Street children and children from families in difficult living circumstances face the highest risk of being involved in sex work, citing a global study on sexual exploitation in travel and tourism country-specific records in 2015.

If the situation was such back in 2021, then imagine the severity of heinous atrocity in recent times.

Afshan Khan, regional director for UNICEF in Europe and Central Asia, declared, “Children throughout the area are being swept up in the awful wake of this war. Missed lives, lost learning, and lost futures will most likely come from the steep rise in child poverty if we don’t support these children and families immediately.”

According to UNICEF, this may result in an additional 4,500 infant deaths before their first birthday and 117,000 additional school dropouts this year.

Also Read: Russian Commander Says Situation for His Forces ‘Tense’ in Ukraine

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