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Campaign to prevent harmful and unnecessary institutionalisation launched by OHCHR and UNICEF

Two UN organisations have launched a campaign calling on governments in Europe and Central Asia to put an immediate end to the practice of placing children under 3 years of age into state-run infant homes.

The campaign follows the release of two new reports by OHCHR (the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) and UNICEF which document violations and abuses of children in state-run homes. The reports revealed that across Europe and Central Asia, including inside the European Union, more than one million children and adults are living in long-term residential care, where they receive inadequate care, often for a lifetime. The reports state that hundreds of thousands of babies with disabilities are routinely placed in state-run homes, severely hampering their development. Many suffer in appalling conditions.

At a meeting in the European Parliament hosted by Irish MEP, Mairead McGuiness, the UN organisations urged governments across the region to make the needs and rights of the youngest children a priority in policymaking, budget allocation and services development, while following international and European standards. This call to action includes restricting placement of children to short-term emergency measures or a planned stay not exceeding six months – and then only when it is absolutely necessary and in the best interest of the child.

More information


For more information see the publications below:

Forgotten Europeans – Forgotten Rights report by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) outlines international and European human rights standards relevant to the situation of persons in institutions (institutional care, deinstitutionalisation and alternative care);

At home or in a home? Formal care and adoption of children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (UNICEF) provides an overview of the major trends and concerns regarding children in formal care and institutions, as well as adopted children in 21 countries across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.