UNICEF and Roma Children

Children’s rights are at the heart of UNICEF’s mandate. Roma children in all countries across Europe are at risk of experiencing the systematic violation of their rights reflected in severe poverty and marginalisation, discrimination and the denial of equal access to services and of equal opportunities in society. Policies are rarely ‘in the best interest’ of the Roma child and the voices of Roma children and young people are often not taken into account.

Early Childhood Development

As for all children, the early years are critical for the development of Roma children. Children’s early development is determined by supportive family and community child care practices, appropriate nutrition and health care, quality learning opportunities, and protection from risk. Child friendly policies and supportive services for young children and their families are essential to provide the necessary enabling environment.


Despite Roma children’s right to education, in the CEE/CIS region they have unequal access to quality schooling. The enrolment rates and retention rates are far below that of majority populations. This is largely because many Roma families cannot afford to send their children to school, live too far away from the nearest schools, or hesitate to send their children to mainstream schools, where they fear the stigma, or even violence, that their children may have to endure.

Health & Nutrition

Available research indicates that Roma children suffer from malnutrition and ill health at much higher rates than their non-Roma peers. Usually official statistics does not collect disaggregated data; therefore the most important sources of information are the population based surveys (e.g. MICS, DHS, etc).


Roma children face many risks that start at birth and continue through their adolescence. Like other groups of marginalised children in the CEE/CIS region, they suffer from discrimination, exploitation, violence and neglect. Many Roma children are not registered at birth, which prevents them from accessing their rights to quality protective services, such as early childhood development services, education, and health care.

Social Inclusion

Roma are the largest and one of the oldest minority groups in Europe. Today, Roma are the ethnic group experiencing the highest levels of poverty and social exclusion across Western, Central and Eastern Europe. Despite the policy and legislation in support of minority rights, the Roma continue to be excluded from fully participating in economic, social, political and cultural life and from enjoying a standard of living and well being that is considered normal in the society in which they live.

Roma Good Start Initiative

The EU-UNICEF Joint Management Project, the Roma Good Start Initiative (RGSI) builds on the overall objectives of RECI and addresses the measures to promote ECD.
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Media and Resources

The variety of print and visual materials developed within RGSI provide information that aim to address young children’s rights.
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Within the broad range of actors working at the local, national and international level to promote Roma inclusion across the whole of Europe.
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Photo Essays

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The Roma in Central and Eastern Europe

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