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A great number of children in Russia remain highly vulnerable

Children from Vladikavkaz, North Caucasus. 2006.
Children from Vladikavkaz, North Caucasus. 2006.

On International Children’s Day UNICEF reinforces its support for Russian children
MOSCOW, 1 June 2007 - The government of the Russian Federation has increased support to families with children in Russia. However more needs to be done to ensure that every child can realize his or her full potential.

Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Representative in the Russian Federation, said: "While UNICEF is happy that children's rights are commemorated on the 1st of June, we would like to see every day of the year being an “International Children's Day”, including in Russia, where children also remain highly vulnerable.”

Mr. de Rooy outlined three key paradigm shifts that would improve the situation of children in Russia:

1. From a dependence on child institutions to family-based care and support to birth families

  • An estimated 730,000 children live without parental care
  • Approximately 180,000 children are in institutions
  • While the number of children in Russia has fallen by 7.81 million from 1990 to 2005, the number of cases of cancellation of parental rights has increased from 49,100 in 1990 to 133,000 in 2005

UNICEF experience shows that long-term or permanent deprivation of parental rights, a practice that is widely used in Russia, is not always in the best interests of the child. Support to orphans is a necessary and important measure, but children in institutions still desperately need loving parents and family.

Ten years ago, the concept of family-based care being preferable to state-provided care was not widely considered or discussed, let alone agreed.  Now, that concept is more accepted and emphasis is made on family placement of children that are deprived of parental care. UNICEF joins several Russian experts in promoting and supporting families to prevent child abandonment or abuse and to avoid children from being placed in institutions. Institutions should only be considered as an exceptional and temporary measure.

2. From curative to more preventive health care

  • 34 per cent of children are breastfed for the first 6 months
  • 66 per cent of the population are at risk of having their physical and mental capacity compromised by iodine deficiency
  • 40 per cent of adolescent males consume alcohol excessively
  • Almost 100 new cases of HIV are registered every day, with 43 per cent of all newly registered HIV cases being women of childbearing age

While Russia’s infant, child and maternal ratios are gradually declining, its life expectancy and fertility rates are also declining. Particularly alarming is that the life expectancy of Russian men at age 30 years has shown no change since World War II, despite significant achievements in modern medicine during this time.

Complementing high-cost curative measures with low-cost high-impact preventive measures is required, with a shift of emphasis towards the latter.

UNICEF supports projects aimed at HIV prevention, prevention of iodine deficiency, promotes healthy lifestyles among young people and breastfeeding through various programmes.

3. From marginalisation, discrimination and stigma to greater tolerance and inclusion

  • 600,000 children are registered as disabled 
  • More than 160 different ethnic groups live in the Russian Federation
  • More than 50,000 children are affected by HIV

Stigma and lack of tolerance towards children with differences (e.g. children with disabilities or children affected by HIV, ethnic minorities, children of migrants) is very common in Russia. To ensure children's rights and social inclusion, attitudes towards children who are ‘different’ need to be changed.

UNICEF supported inclusive education projects and Peace and Tolerance promotion demonstrate that society can only benefit from integrating children with differences.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:

John Brittain, UNICEF, Russian Federation
Tel. + 7 495 937 48 12

Elena Kharitonova, UNICEF, Russian Federation
Tel: +7 495 937 21 95




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