Across the region, millions of children are suffering from the effects of poverty, natural disasters and the lingering effects of past conflicts and communist ideologies. Hunger, exploitation, lack of hope, inability to access education and healthcare are just some hurdles children must overcome if they are to live their lives to the fullest.
World Vision’s community development model is built on four main pillars we have found to be crucial indicators of future success and life in all its fullness.
- Children enjoy good health
- Children are educated for life
- Children experience the love of God and their neighbour
- Children are cared for, protected and active participants
It is our belief that if one of these primary pillars is weak or missing, the child is vulnerable. At World Vision, we strive to work with the most vulnerable families in the most vulnerable communities to achieve significant and lasting change and strengthen the week or missing areas.
Our programs vary from country to country depending on the context. The following are but some examples of the hurdles children, families and entire communities face across the region.
Children Enjoy Good Health:
In many of the countries where we serve, being born is the child’s first hurdle and not an insignificant one. The abortion rate in Eastern Europe is the highest in the world. Overall 30 per cent of pregnancies end in abortion, nearly 10 per cent higher than the world average. In Romania and Georgia, nearly 50 per cent of pregnancies are terminated.
Additionally, while access to and quality of many health services has improved greatly in many countries in the region over the past two decades, national statistics often paint a distorted picture. For example, children in rural Albania and Georgia were more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday as their peers in cities. And, in Romania, child mortality among the Roma is significantly higher than the national average.
Finally, although the number of new HIV infections is going down in most parts of the world Eastern Europe is home to a number of countries where the newly diagnosed HIV incidence increased significantly between 2001 and 2009, and it is often those living in poverty who are the most vulnerable because of lack of information and/or false perceptions.
Children are Educated for Life
Access to quality education, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion is another key factor for success for individuals, communities and entire countries. Study after study has shown that educated populations consistently outperform those with less education. Women who are educated make better decisions and are more prepared to take care of their children. Society, as a whole, benefits.
While the statistics show there has been marked increase in primary school enrolment across many countries in the region, one number alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Only one in four children of the Roma minority, across the region, attends secondary school.
Additionally, while it is true that, in general, more children are going to school, secondary studies seem to show that just getting children in the classroom is not enough. The quality and type of education needs to be comparable if these students are to compete in a globalized and evermore connected and competitive workplace in the future.
Unemployment and underemployment is large a problem in Europe. In countries with transitioning economies, 23 per cent of youth want to emigrate, mostly to Western Europe or the United States. And, many of the educated are—creating what some experts have called “brain drain”.
Children experience the love of God and their neighbour
The countries and citizens of Europe, especially Eastern Europe, are no strangers to conflict—past and present. In a region divided by religion and ideology, World Vision works to promote peace and understanding among children and adults and empower individuals and communities to share the message of understanding with others.
Children are cared for, protected and active participants
As the countries across the region determine the best road forward, it is increasingly important for youth to have their voices heard. World Vision is empowering children and communities and enabling this to be possible.
A long road ahead
World Vision been working in countries across the Eastern Europe region for more than 20 years and is dedicated to improving the lives of children, families and the communities where they live through long-term sustainable development. Much progress has been made, but there is still a lot of work left to do.