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In recent years, fueled by oil and gas exports, Kazakhstan’s economy grew at a rapid clip, causing poverty rates to fall and enabling substantially increased spending on social programmes. However, due to the global economic crisis, most of the country’s development goals are far from being achieved. Many of the gains that have been made are now in jeopardy, exacerbating the vulnerability of women and children.
Issues facing children in Kazakhstan
- HIV/AIDS is spreading at an alarming rate, driven in part by intravenous drug use. Even as the public becomes more informed about the virus, many high-risk groups and young people continue to engage in dangerous behaviours. More babies are being born to HIV-infected mothers, and rates of mother-to-child transmission are increasing.
- Along with infant deaths, maternal mortality remains a serious public health problem. The growing incidence of gynecological diseases, infertility and miscarriages is also attributed to the low use of contraceptives and the practice of induced abortion as a means of family planning.
- Every year, thousands of children - including orphans and children with disabilities - are institutionalized.
- Only 11 per cent of rural children have access to pre-school.
- Only one third of Kazakhstan’s 153,000 children with disabilities have access to special education programmes.
Activities and results for children
- UNICEF has supported major immunization drives that vaccinate teens and young adults against measles and rubella. The success of these campaigns has overcome public skepticism regarding the safety and importance of vaccinations. Measles, mumps and rubella vaccines will now be integrated into the routine immunization programme for children.
- The Kazakh Health Ministry, the European Commission and UNICEF have initiated a joint project to educate the public about avian influenza and ways to prevent human infection. To date, half of confirmed human cases of the virus worldwide have been in children.
- Thanks in part to UNICEF’s public awareness campaign featuring world chess champion Anatoly Karpov, some 92 per cent of Kazakh households now consume iodized salt. UNICEF is also advocating a plan to fortify the flour supply.
- Kazakhstan has achieved the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education (secondary school attendance is 95.3 percent; adult literacy rate is 99.8 percent) and gender equality in primary and secondary education. However, inequities persist across regions and in rural areas.
- UNICEF is working with partners to develop a quality foster-care system as an alternative to institutionalizing children with special needs.
- UNICEF initiated a conference that focused on child-friendly local and national budgeting. Around 200 participants representing legislative and executive authorities, educational and research institutes, public associations, international organizations and embassies - as well as leading foreign experts on social and economic policy - gathered to review the methodologies and practices of programme budget planning and the implementation of state programmes in the social sectors of health care, education and social protection for children and families.