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Millions lose out in Eastern European and Central Asian growth

UN statistics reveal economic growth fails to tackle deep-seated social problems

GENEVA, 27 April 2007 - Millions of citizens across Eastern Europe and Central Asia are not benefiting from the marked economic growth in the region, according to a newly published set of UN statistics. 

Children are benefiting least and are in particular vulnerable to the polarisation accompanying the positive economic trend. For example, Tajikistan and Albania have a prevalence of stunted growth among children aged below five which is on a par with levels found in the poorest parts of the world. 

Women are also finding that they have been left behind by the economic growth. In many of the countries surveyed in 2003 the difference between men’s and women’s average wages widened to more than 30 per cent, with peaks of higher than 50 per cent. Romania and Bulgaria are the exception to this trend, showing a declining gender pay gap.

In five countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia half of the population is still living on less than $2.15 per day.

These findings are part of a new collection of statistics, called Regional MDGInfo, created jointly by three UN agencies: UNICEF, UNDP and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. The information collected spans the years 1988-2005, although the availability of statistics for specific years and countries varies.

“These statistics, or welfare measurements, are vital,” said Shahnaz Kianian-Firouzgar, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS). “They tell us that too many children, women and families in rural areas of our region are not doing well, that they and their families are excluded from the current economic recovery.

The findings suggest people in rural areas are more disadvantaged. The proportion of populations whose homes are connected to regular water supply ranges from 50 per cent to 80 per cent, but in rural areas this percentage is below 30 per cent in half the countries surveyed.

Another problem blighting the region is the number of children placed in institutions. Russia remains the country with the highest rate of children in residential care, with the database showing more than 1,200 children per 100,000 are placed in institutions.

“Studying these statistics is like surveying a car dashboard. Both monitor performance and in this case the engine is growth and social welfare. The engine is working hard, but we have warning signs of major problems. If we don’t address each problem, the overall economic and social welfare performance will be seriously affected,” said Marek Belka, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

He added: “Some countries in the region are also lacking relevant statistics to monitor issues such as poverty, unemployment, and gender inequality. We need to strengthen our efforts to promote a stronger and independent statistical system for evidence-based policy making.”

“Only the joint efforts of all the UN agencies can bring the countries of our region closer to the achievement of their commitments towards Millennium Development Goals,” said Jafar Javan, Chief of Policy Support and Programme Development at UNDP’s Bratislava Regional Centre. “It is only logical that the three organizations work together to carry out activities which improve the monitoring of the MDGs and help the countries to strengthen their statistical capacities.”

The Regional MDGInfo was developed using the UN DevInfo software and data is freely available on the web at www.regionalmdg.org and as a CD. All three UN agencies collaborate to support countries in this region in their efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals. 

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 contact:

Mervyn Fletcher, UNICEF Communication Officer: Tel +41 79 6668831

Jean Michel Jakobowicz, UNECE Public Information Officer: Tel +41 22 917 4444

 Zoran Stevanovic, UNDP Regional Communication Specialist: Tel  + 421 2 59337 428




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