|Sergei is an avid football player|
MOSCOW, 3 July 2004 – Sergei Pavlov, 16, today becomes the second of the three torchbearers selected by UNICEF to participate in the global Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay, as the Relay visits Moscow.
Sergei is an avid football player. He plays defence for ‘The Family Club’, an amateur young people’s team. Sergei’s team won the 2004 Football Cup in a local competition.
Sergei lives with other orphaned children in the Otradnoye Centre, which was established in 1997 and which has an open-door policy for any child in need of urgent assistance. Since its opening, the Centre has assisted more than 2,000 children and adolescents in need. The Centre has a long history of cooperative work with UNICEF on child protection issues.
Sergei is of one of 150 children aged between 3 and 18 years who receive support from the Otradnoye Centre. Each of these children has his or her own sad story about why they require assistance from the Centre; in many cases, parental unemployment or alcoholism were key factors.
In Sergei’s case, his father left the family and his mother, after struggling with a drinking problem, died last year. Sergei and his elder brother Nikolai were taken by social workers to the Otradnoye Centre.
Sport is very important for Sergei, and he is very excited about participating in the Olympic Torch Relay. “I hate violence and evil” said Sergei. “I am grateful to the people that have helped my brother and I during a very difficult time in our lives.”
|Sergei plays defence for ‘The Family Club’, an amateur young people’s team.|
Children in Russia
While there have been positive economic trends in Russia, the benefits are slow to filter down to ordinary people. Families continue to suffer from various social and economic pressures. Poverty, neglect and abuse force many children into state care or onto the street.
Russia has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world. Children as a group face particular hardships caused by poverty. Slightly less than 700,000 children are either orphaned or without parental care. Although 70 per cent of these children are placed in family-based care structures, there are regions where less than 40 per cent of the children live in a family setting.
The total number of children in institutional care in Russia in 2002 was approximately half a million, or two out of every hundred children. The number of children being placed in institutions has been growing at a disconcerting rate over the past 10 years, especially considering the continuing decrease of Russia’s total child population, currently at 30.5 million.
|Sergei’s team won the 2004 Football Cup in a local competition.|
These numbers are also especially alarming when one considers that many of the children in institutions have living parents. A contributing factor in the increase of children with living parents in institutions is the growing use of termination of parental rights as a response to child protection issues. Many Russian children who are in orphanages were placed there because of family problems with violence or alcoholism, or when their parents could not afford to provide basic necessities. In 2000, 43 per cent of the children entering state care did so as a result of termination of parental rights.
In Russia, UNICEF’s efforts are targeted at:
UNICEF does not consider institutionalized care as the best option for the welfare and development of orphans or other vulnerable children. Resources are better devoted to strengthening the ability of families and communities to care for such children. The search for, and support of, family and extended family is thus a priority of UNICEF programmes and projects responding to this situation. At the present time, however, homes and institutions still remain a necessary last resort for many children.