Children stay poor in post-communist boom

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The Independent Online

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, according to a report by Unicef.

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, according to a report by Unicef.

Child populations are rising most quickly in the region's most impoverished countries, while at the same time public health expenditures in some of the countries have declined at a rate sharper than their economies are rising.

"Economic growth alone does not benefit children," Unicef's executive director, Carol Bellamy, said at the launch of the report.

The report notes that a full assessment of the child poverty conditions in the 27 countries surveyed - the former Soviet republics and once-communist countries of Eastern Europe - is difficult because of a dearth of recent data and widely varying definitions from country to country of what constitutes poverty.

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, despite a 10 per cent rise in national income between 1998 and 2001. In Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet republics, health expenditures stayed flat despite 7 per cent economic growth. (AP)

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