Millions excluded from economic growth in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – UN

Millions excluded from economic growth in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – UN

Millions of people, especially children, across Eastern Europe and Central Asia are not reaping the benefits of rapid economic expansion in the region, according to figures released by the United Nations today.

The collection of statistics, entitled “Regional MDGInfo,” was culled by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and spans the period from 1988 to 2005.

According to the findings, children in the region are suffering as badly as other children in the poorest parts of the world, with Tajikistan and Albania having the same levels of stunted growth among children below the age of five as the least developed countries.

There is also a large number of children in institutions. Russia has the highest rate of children in residential care, with the study showing that 1,200 children out of every 100,000 are placed in institutions.

Women are also being left behind in spite of the economic growth. With Romania and Bulgaria as the exception, the rest of the countries surveyed in 2003 reflected a 30 per cent different between the average wages of men and women. In some countries, the gap was greater than 50 per cent.

Half of the populations of five of the region’s nations are living on less than $2 per day.

“These statistics, or welfare measurements, are vital, said Maria Calivis, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. “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 bonanza.”

The figures show that rural people are more disadvantaged. Between half and 80 per cent of homes are connected to regular water supplies, but in rural areas, this percentage dips to below 30 per cent in half of the countries surveyed.

“Studying these statistics is like surveying a car dashboard,” said Marek Belka, Executive Secretary of UNECE. “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.”

He added that some countries are not armed with the mechanisms to monitor such issues as poverty, unemployment and gender inequality, and urged for a strengthening of UN efforts to create a stronger and independent statistical system.

“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,” referring to the eight targets aimed at slashing social ills, including extreme poverty and hunger, by 2015, said Jafar Javan, who serves as UNDP’s Chief of Policy Support and Programme Development in Bratislava, Slovakia.