UNICEF: Amid Eastern Europe’s economic recovery, children fall behin

UNICEF: Amid Eastern Europe’s economic recovery, children fall behind

The Star Online
Wednesday, October 13, 2004

MOSCOW: Although the formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe and
Central Asia are seeing substantial economic improvement, millions of
their children still languish in poverty and the problem is worsening
in some countries, UNICEF said in a report released Wednesday.

Child populations are rising most quickly in the region’s most
impoverished countries, said the report by the United Nations
Children’s Fund. In addition, public health expenditures in some of
the countries have declined at a rate sharper than their economies
are rising, the report shows.

“Economic growth alone does not benefit children,” UNICEF executive
director Carol Bellamy said at a news conference launching the report.

The report notes that full assessment of the child poverty conditions
in 27 countries _ the former Soviet republics and once-communist
countries of Europe _ is difficult because of a dearth of recent data
and widely varying local standards of what constitutes poverty.

For example, the report said, comparatively prosperous Latvia sets
the poverty line at 51 percent of per-capita GDP while Georgia, where
per-capita GDP is only 25 percent of Latvia’s, sets the poverty line
at 63 percent.

In nine countries for which recent data were available, 14 million
of 44 million children were living in poverty, the report said. The
countries cited were Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Belarus,
Albania, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

Azerbaijan was among the countries where annual per-capita spending on
public health declined in recent years, the report said: just US$32
(26) in 2001, less than was spent in 1998, even though national
income rose about 10 percent annually in the period. In Tajikistan,
the poorest of the former Soviet republics, the report said health
expenditures stayed flat at about US$12 (10) despite 7 percent
economic growth.

The report also expressed concern about population growth in the
countries of formerly Soviet Central Asia. It noted that in 1990,
11 percent of the survey region’s impoverished children lived
in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and that in 1992 those
countries plus comparatively small Moldova accounted for 17 percent
of the region’s poor children. – AP