Tag Archives: Europe

Children UNICEF

Children on the move through Europe dream of a ‘normal’ life

Mascut, 3, from Syria, plays with a ball at the UNICEF-supported child-friendly space. After waiting 6 hours in the sun to cross the border with his mother and sister, he recalls what it feels like to rest and play before embarking on the next stretch to Serbia.

Mascut, 3, from Syria, plays with a ball at the UNICEF-supported child-friendly space. After waiting 6 hours in the sun to cross the border with his mother and sister, he recalls what it feels like to rest and play before embarking on the next stretch to Serbia. (c)UNICEFMK/2015/TomislavGeorgiev

When I arrived on Saturday to the town of Gevgelija near the border with Greece, I witnessed people and children with utter desperation and fear in their eyes. Thousands of children and families on the move from conflict zones in the Middle East, Asia and parts of Africa had pushed through a police cordon where they had been waiting to enter the country. This resulted in a stampede as exhausted and frightened people raced towards the city centre.

Amidst the confusion, children were separated from their families and left to wander down the nearby railway tracks. My colleague and I, worried for their safety, set out to find these children so that we could bring them to a makeshift protection centre until they could be reunited with their parents and caregivers. It was a terrifying ordeal for them, but fortunately, all of the boys and girls were later able to re-join their families.

Yet for most of these children, this incident was just one more hardship in their long and perilous journeys in search of safety after having been displaced by conflict from their home countries. Some 2,000 – 3,000 people, usually in smaller groups of 50 – 100, are now crossing daily from Greece into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia after making the dangerous trip by sea across the Aegean. Soon they will move on to Serbia and then to other countries in the European Union.

After travelling for days on end, the youngest children in particular often arrive dehydrated or running a fever because they have been sleeping out in the open. Children and adults come barefoot, their shoes having been destroyed after so much walking.

Some families are from Syria or Iraq, while others have travelled from Afghanistan. All just want to live in peace, free from the threat of violence, displacement and death.

Lamar, 4, has travelled with her mother for just over 2 months from Syria to the Gevgelija border crossing. They are heading to Germany to reunite with Lamar's father who managed to reach Germany 4 months ago. Her mother tells us their house was burned to the ground and that they have nothing left. The hope of reuniting their family and a better life gives them courage to keep moving.

Lamar, 4, has travelled with her mother for just over 2 months from Syria to the Gevgelija border crossing. They are heading to Germany to reunite with Lamar’s father who managed to reach Germany 4 months ago. Her mother tells us their house was burned to the ground and that they have nothing left. The hope of reuniting their family and a better life gives them courage to keep moving. (c)UNICEFMK/2015/TomislavGeorgiev

Most of the children I have spoken with do not want to talk about their experiences with war. They are more interested in sharing their hopes for the future which always seems to include going back to school. Just the other day, I watched as a group of children from several different countries played together by pretending they were in a classroom. Even though they did not all speak the same language, they organized themselves into ‘pretend’ teachers and students – sharing in the same pleasant daydream of just being a ‘normal kid’.

It’s been about five days since the chaotic scene at the border and the services available for people crossing over have improved. There is a new Migrant Reception Centre about 500 metres from the Greek border and we are working with our partners to ensure that children and families arriving here are provided with essential services to help sustain them for their onward journey. A second tent at the centre is now being used as a safe space place for women and children to access support services.

Yet far more must be done to meet the growing humanitarian needs here. There is not enough shelter to accommodate the number of people passing through and many are forced to sit outside for hours in the scorching sun. More sanitation facilities are needed and there is no running water – I’ve seen parents washing their children with bottled water.

We’re here to help though and day by day, it will get better. I hope that one day soon the children I have met here will get what they want most – a normal life where they will be able to sit in a real classroom instead of an imaginary one.

Aleksandar Lazovski is a UNICEF Social Protection Specialist

In Italy, Walid (14) stands outside the Alkadia youth centre, in Turin. The centre  provides youths, most of whom are from disadvantaged families, with recreational and cultural activities, as well as help with schoolwork.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1954/Pirozzi

Children of the Recession – The “Great Leap Backward”

Just over six years since the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers, the global economic crisis still makes news throughout the world. The impact on households goes beyond headlines. Hardly any family has not felt the pain of the Great Recession. Children of course experience it most acutely. They are also at greatest risk of suffering lasting damage from it.

Lasting damage could well be the dominant theme of the new Innocenti Report Card “Children of the Recession: The impact of the economic crisis on child well-being in rich countries.” The Innocenti Report Card is the one UNICEF flagship publication devoted to children in the developed world. This Report Card does not deliver many passing grades.

In Italy, Walid (14) stands outside the Alkadia youth centre, in Turin. The centre  provides youths, most of whom are from disadvantaged families, with recreational and cultural activities, as well as help with schoolwork. © UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1954/Pirozzi

In Italy, Walid (14) stands outside the Alkadia youth centre, in Turin. The centre provides youths, most of whom are from disadvantaged families, with recreational and cultural activities, as well as help with schoolwork. © UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1954/Pirozzi

It offers a sobering look at how child poverty has changed compared to fixed 2008 levels, introducing a more sensitive measure of how children have fared since that critical point. There is real concern that widening poverty gaps, young people not in education, employment or training and staggering declines in years of income progress are causing long term structural changes that will set children back significantly in the developed world.

In 23 out of 41 countries child poverty has increased. In a number of countries the increases were sizable, especially in the Mediterranean region. In 18 countries child poverty declined, but these are mostly the smaller economies in the group, with a notable exception being Germany.

Unusual, even for the Innocenti Report Card series, is a special section ranking US States’ changes in child poverty. There are some surprising results. US economic stimulus worked fairly well and most likely prevented large numbers of children from falling into poverty. In some traditionally poorer States like Mississippi and West Virginia, child poverty improved, while going up significantly in Idaho and Nevada. Smaller increases in some larger states masked sizable numbers of newly poor children such as in California (221,000) and Florida (183,000).

A major takeaway from Report Card 12 is that the economic crisis has been a recession about children. The most telling data confirming this is the Report’s look at how different vulnerable groups were affected. In 28 out of 31 European countries the poverty rate has increased more rapidly (or has decreased more slowly) for the young than for the elderly.

Not surprisingly, youth employment has taken a huge hit across the developed world. The more frightening news has to do with “NEETs,” or, 15 to 24 year olds not in education, employment or training. NEET rates stayed the same or rose in 35 out of the 41 countries in the report.

“Great Leap Backward” is a telling way to sum up the impact of the recession on children. This really hits hard when you read how many years of lost income progress many OECD countries have sustained. Between 2008 and 2012, Greek families lost the equivalent of 14 years of progress; Ireland, Luxembourg and Spain lost a full decade; and four other nations lost almost as much.

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Les enfants de la Grande Récession – Le grand bond en arrière

A peine six ans après l’effondrement soudain de Lehman Brothers, la crise économique mondiale continue à faire parler d’elle sur toute la planète. Mais l’impact sur les ménages va bien au-delà des gros titres. Aucune famille ou presque n’a échappé aux douloureuses conséquences de ce qu’on a appelé la Grande Récession mais, bien sûr, ce sont les enfants qui en souffert le plus. Ce sont également eux qui risquent le plus d’en subir les effets dévastateurs à long terme.

Ces effets dévastateurs à long terme pourraient bien être le thème dominant du nouveau Bilan Innocenti « Les enfants de la récession : l’impact de la crise économique sur le bien-être des enfants dans les pays riches ». Le Bilan Innocenti est la publication phare de l’UNICEF consacré aux enfants du monde développé. Ce rapport ne décerne pas beaucoup de notes satisfaisantes.

À Turin, en Italie, Walid (14 ans) se tient à l'extérieur du centre pour jeunes Alkadia. Le centre offre aux jeunes, dont la plupart sont issus de familles défavorisées, des activités récréatives et culturelles, ainsi qu’une aide avec leurs devoirs scolaires. © UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1954/Pirozzi

À Turin, en Italie, Walid (14 ans) se tient à l’extérieur du centre pour jeunes Alkadia. Le centre offre aux jeunes, dont la plupart sont issus de familles défavorisées, des activités récréatives et culturelles, ainsi qu’une aide avec leurs devoirs scolaires.© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1954/Pirozzi

Ce rapport, brutal rappel à la réalité, permet d’étudier la façon dont la pauvreté des enfants a changé par rapport aux niveaux fixes de 2008 et il introduit une mesure plus affinée de l’évolution de la situation des enfants depuis ce moment critique. On peut redouter que l’élargissement des écarts de pauvreté, le fait que tant de jeunes aient quitté l’école, ne suivent pas de formation ou soient sans emploi, et la perte stupéfiante d’années de progrès de revenu ne soient à l’origine de changements structurels à long terme qui vont considérablement détériorer la situation des enfants dans le monde développé

Dans 23 des 41 pays étudiés, la pauvreté des enfants a augmenté. Dans plusieurs pays, cette aggravation a été considérable, en particulier dans la région méditerranéenne. Dans 18 pays, la pauvreté des enfants a diminué, mais ce sont surtout les pays plus petits du groupe, l’Allemagne représentant l’exception notable.

A noter un élément inhabituel, même pour la série des Bilans Innocenti, la présence d’une section spéciale sur les changements survenus dans le domaine de la pauvreté des enfants dans les Etats des Etats-Unis. On y constate quelques résultats surprenants. Les programmes de relance économique ont assez bien fonctionné et ont probablement empêché qu’un grand nombre d’enfants ne sombrent dans la pauvreté. Dans certains États traditionnellement les plus pauvres comme le Mississippi et la Virginie occidentale, les taux de pauvreté des enfants se sont améliorés, tandis qu’ils se sont fortement aggravés dans l’Idaho et le Nevada. Des augmentations moins importantes dans certains grands États dissimulent l’important nombre d’enfants qui sont devenus pauvres en Californie, (221 000) et en Floride (183 000) par exemple.

L’un des principaux éléments à retenir de ce Bilan 12 est que la crise économique a été une récession pour les enfants. Les données les plus révélatrices de cette affirmation se trouvent dans la façon dont les différents groupes vulnérables ont été touchés. Dans 28 des 31 pays européens, le taux de pauvreté a augmenté plus rapidement (ou a diminué plus lentement) pour les jeunes que pour les personnes âgées.

Sans surprise, le secteur de l’emploi des jeunes a subi la crise de plein fouet dans le monde développé. Ce qui est plus inquiétant concerne les jeunes âgés de 15 à 24 ans qui ont quitté l’école, ne suivent pas de formation ou sont sans emploi. La proportion de ces jeunes est restée la même ou a augmenté dans 35 des 41 pays de l’étude.

Le « Grand Bond en arrière » résume de manière frappante l’impact de la récession sur les enfants. Le nombre d’années de perte de progrès de revenu est particulièrement édifiant dans de nombreux pays de l’OCDE. Ainsi, entre 2008 et 2012, les familles grecques ont perdu l’équivalent de 14 années de progrès ; l’Irlande, le Luxembourg et l’Espagne ont perdu une décennie entière ; et quatre autres pays ont perdu presque autant.