Children die in the poverty trap

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The Independent Online
The growing problem of infanticide in Hungary has come under the spotlight because of a gruesome case involving a 26-year-old woman who gave birth to her third child earlier this month and burned it to death.

Police say the woman, who has not been identified, was living in poverty with an alcoholic husband and felt unable to cope with the newborn, whom she covered with a blanket and set fire to in her courtyard. The woman's mother raised the alarm when she discovered some of the baby's bones. Police were unable to say whether it had been a girl or boy.

Late last month, a Budapest woman was arrested after admitting to the killing of two of her babies. In testimony to police, the woman, a former social worker, said that she had killed both babies, her fourth and fifth, shortly after giving birth and that she had dumped the most recent in a rubbish bin.

According to official figures, at least 54 Hungarian babies or infants have been killed over the past two years by parents who feel they cannot afford them, an average of one every two weeks. The problem is hardly new, but it has been exacerbated since the fall of communism by sweeping economic reforms which have left many people living below the poverty line.

"The majority of cases involve young uneducated girls frequently without husbands who see killing their babies as the only way out," said Gyorgy Kolmann, deputy director of Budapest's Institute for Child and Youth Protection.

Mr Kolmann says infanticide is a problem throughout the former East bloc, but it is accentuated in Hungary, a country which boasts one of the highest suicide rates in the world.