The Republic of Serbia has a declining and ageing population of 7.3 million with over 20 ethnic minority populations.
Many people have moved to cities in search of work. As a result, most people, around 60%, live in urban areas while the rest live in semi-urban and rural communities.
The capital city, Belgrade, is home to around 1.4 million inhabitants, one fifth of the country’s population.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Serbia since 2005.
In the Balkans, Serbia experiences the highest percentage of citizens living below the national poverty line. More than 25% of the population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion, with around 7% living in absolute poverty.
Children are disproportionately affected, with around 30% at risk of poverty and 10% living in absolutely poverty.
As a result, around 120,000 children live precariously on the margins of society where their basic needs can no longer be met.
Two-thirds of children ages 3 to 5 attend preschool, with one-third of this age group not attending preschool.
Young children who do not attend preschool are mostly from low-income households. Only 9% of the poorest children in Serbia and 6% of Roma children attend preschool. For children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, early education can make an important contribution to their social and cognitive development, as well as to their social inclusion.
Serbia has one of the highest levels of the population living in hunger, with 6% of people being undernourished.
Children face significant consequences of hunger, with 4% experiencing wasting and 6% stunting. The numbers are greater for Roma children where 5% experience wasting and 19% are stunted.
Malnutrition in children has multiple effects, from impaired growth, development and well-being, to a weakened immune system which can lead to disease.