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Poverty remains widespread in Russia’s rural communities, especially among women and families with children.
President Vladimir Putin has pledged to cut the poverty rate in half by 2007, lowering it to 10 percent. Russia’s rates of infant, child and maternal mortality are among the highest in Eastern Europe.
Issues facing children in Russia
- Iodine-deficiency disorders affect nearly 40 per cent of children; iron deficiency has quadrupled in the past decade. It is estimated that only about one third of children are exclusively breastfed to the age of 6 months.
- National education expenditures continue to decline, along with enrolment rates and the availability of pre-school programmes. School completion rates are also falling, and fewer poor children in rural areas have access to education.
- The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number of children living on the streets or in institutions.
- Heterosexual transmission is fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS. Most infections are occurring in people under age 30; a troubling number of new infections are now seen in women of childbearing age. More than 20,000 children have been born to HIV-infected mothers.
- Many thousands of women and children in Chechnya lack basic social services.
- Infant and child mortality rates are significantly higher in Chechnya and Ingushetia; diarrhoea and respiratory infections are the most common culprits. Vaccination rates are low in this region, especially among displaced children. Iron-deficiency anaemia is common in children and pregnant women.
Activities and results for children
- The Ministry of Health and Social Development has made breastfeeding a cornerstone of its maternal and child health programme. Thirty additional hospitals were certified as baby-friendly in 2005, bringing the total to 210; these facilities, which improve outcomes for mothers and babies, now account for 17 per cent of all deliveries.
- UNICEF and its partners have made a concerted effort to slash the cost of antiretroviral therapies used to treat HIV/AIDS. Since 1999, 48 youth-friendly centres have been created to provide resources and accurate information about HIV/AIDS prevention to half a million young people.
- The government is taking more decisive action to stop the spread of AIDS. More than $100 million (a tenfold increase) has been allocated for prevention programmes in 2006 alone.
- UNICEF and its partners provided emergency trauma counselling for 6,000 children and adults in Beslan, a town in North Ossetia , where a September 2004 shootout between Chechen hostage-takers and Russian security forces led to the deaths of 344 civilians, including nearly 200 schoolchildren.
- In Chechnya, UNICEF and its partners delivered clean water to 100,000 people daily, rehabilitated dozens of schools, and provided mine-risk education to reduce the number of landmine-related accidents.