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Ukraine’s government has made commitments to children’s rights, but spending on social services remains limited, in part because of the struggling economy. The nation’s Soviet-era infrastructure has deteriorated, but a new system has not yet taken its place. Two-thirds of the population lives in rural areas, where poverty is widespread.
Issues facing children in Ukraine
Ukraine is on the brink of an HIV/AIDS epidemic. A large proportion of those infected are under age 30, and there has been an alarming increase in mother-to-child HIV transmission. Risky behaviour among the young, including injecting drug use, is fuelling the spread of HIV.
Many low-income children have poor nutrition and no access to primary health care.
About 68 per cent of the population consumes non-iodized salt, leading to widespread iodine-deficiency disorders.
The number of children living on the streets has risen steadily over the past decade, creating urgent problems in human trafficking for forced prostitution, forced labour and sexual exploitation.
Domestic violence is a serious problem. A Ukrainian Academy of Sciences survey estimates that 20 per cent of women suffer abuse on a regular basis.
There is no separate juvenile justice system in Ukraine.
Activities and results for children
UNICEF assisted the Ministry of Health in creating a programme to monitor the HIV status of pregnant women and train medical personnel in preventing mother-to-child transmission.
Through a mass media campaign to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention, the development of youth-friendly health-care services, and outreach programmes based in state-run shelters for children living on the streets, UNICEF aims to help forestall an HIV/AIDS crisis.
UNICEF helped the Ministry of Health develop guidelines for “Baby Friendly” hospitals. Eighteen hospitals are certified as meeting these standards for breastfeeding and improved prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal care.
Routine vaccination of infants against hepatitis B began in 2003 and was dramatically expanded in 2004.
UNICEF assisted in the creation of the 2004 National Programme on Young Children’s Development, which calls for community-based kindergartens and counselling centres for parents. Special efforts have been made to improve health services for children in the most disadvantaged communities.
Iodized salt production increased by 215% in 2004. UNICEF is lobbying for universal salt iodization, and has provided rapid test kits to help monitor salt supplies.
UNICEF is working with policy-makers on initiatives to prevent human trafficking, improve social services for children living in the streets and develop a new juvenile justice system.