UNICEF launches child poverty report
Almost 18 million children and young people living in poverty in the
region, on less than $2.15 a day.
GENEVA, NEW YORK, 29 November 2001 - Child poverty is widespread in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), despite growing economies in the region, says a UNICEF report released today. Almost 18 million young people are living in poverty and rising numbers of children are ending up in institutions or being put up for adoption as families strain to cope.
The report, "A Decade of Transition", published by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy, looks at the standard of living of the over 400 million people who live in the CIS/CEE region. It examines incomes and child poverty, health, education, demographic changes, and children in public care. The report finds huge disparities in the situation of children across the 27 countries in the region and calls for renewed efforts to grant a better future for all. (Click here to get a copy of the report)
"Thanks to a decade of strenuous efforts, child mortality rates have fallen in many countries. However, millions of children continue to suffer from poverty, ill health and marginalization," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF.
"Fundamental freedoms have been recognized in most countries - the right to vote, to express an opinion, to use one's own initiative and enterprise. This is undeniably a source of satisfaction and bodes well for the future. But we must not forget the original goals of the transition - to raise the standard of living for everyone and to develop humane and democratic societies. These goals need to be re-affirmed," said Bellamy.
The report notes that over the last decade the number of children in poor families has increased sharply as real incomes have fallen, and inequality has widened. At the end of the 1990s it is estimated that there were nearly 18 million children from 0 to 17 years of age living on less than $2.15 a day, a World Bank yardstick for poverty. This represents around 17 per cent of that population age group. The majority of these poor children - 16 million - were in the CIS, but a further two million were in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic states and the countries of the former Yugoslavia. In Moldova, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the majority of children were poor by the $2.15 yardstick.
The UNICEF report also quotes a higher threshold of poverty - living under $4.30 a day. Using this figure, the number of poor children and young people in the region rises to just under 60 million, well over half the total in this age group of 108 million.
"A Decade of Transition" points to a growing gap in the health status of populations in poorer and richer parts of the region. In Ukraine, Russia and Armenia, one in seven children is malnourished. In Albania, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the figure is one in three.
In parts of the region, the report finds alarming levels of school dropout, repetition, and late entry. Secondary school attendance in Central Asian countries has fallen from two-thirds in 1989 to less than half of 15 - 18 year-olds in 1998. Central Europe finished the 1990s with higher rates. The report notes a recovery or growth in pre-school enrolment rates over the 1990s in Central Europe, former Yugoslavia and the Baltic states. Tertiary education has expanded in all countries but Armenia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
CHILDREN IN INSTITUTIONS
"I have never seen my mother. I'd like to see her once at least, but I don't know where to find her." (Sebastian, 18, Romanian). Quote from the report.
"A Decade of Transition" finds that, over ten years after the start of the reforms, even higher numbers of children are living in public care. The higher rates of children in out-of-home care reflect the greater risks faced by children: weaker family ties, lower household income, poorer access to health and education, higher rates of adult mortality.
There were 1.5 million children in out-of-home care at the end of the 1990s, about 150,000 more than at the start of the decade. A rise has occurred in most parts of the region (the Caucasus and former Yugoslavia are exceptions), with the sharpest increase in the Baltic states. Central Europe has high rates too, in marked contrast to other social indicators on which this part of the region often performs the best. The increase in numbers of children in public care comes despite a fall in the numbers of young children by over one-third since 1989.
The UNICEF report notes that, contrary to expectations that adoption should reduce the number of children in institutions, rises in adoption and institutionalization have often gone hand in hand. In Belarus, for example, the rate of adoption rose by 160 per cent over 1989-99, and the proportion of young children aged 0-3 in infant homes rose by 170 per cent. In some countries, most spectacularly in Russia, increases in international adoptions have paralleled decreases in national adoptions.
Radical reforms of child protection systems in the region are no less urgently needed now than they were a decade ago, says the report, which urges stronger preventive and better targeted policies to help keep children and their families together.
THE REPORT'S RECOMMENDATIONS:
For more information, please contact:
UNICEF Florence, ++ 39 055 2033354, firstname.lastname@example.org