Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 18:09:44 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: DEVELOPMENT: UNICEF Paints Dark Picture for Eastern Europe
Article: 70639
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 436.0 **/
** Topic: DEVELOPMENT: UNICEF Paints Dark Picture for Eastern Europe **
** Written 9:08 PM Jul 21, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

UNICEF paints dark picture for Eastern Europe

By Gustavo Capdevila, InterPress Service, 21 July 1999

GENEVA, Jul 22 (IPS)—The consequences of disintegrating social services for the children in eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is a source of great concern for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF's executive director, Carol Bellamy, explained that nearly all countries that were part of the former socialist bloc have seen a downturn in the conditions of basic services.

In a pre-release of the UNICEF report, ‘Progress of Nations 1999,’ Bellamy predicted that the statistics for the region would not be as negative as in the cases of the world's poorest countries.

But the UNICEF director pointed to the Russian Federation, where economic difficulties, among other factors, have meant that teachers have not been paid, school dropout rates are on the rise and the number of street children has skyrocketed.

The Ukraine stands out for its high HIV/AIDS infection rates. They have not yet reached the scale of eastern and southern Africa, explained Bellamy, but they are still “quite shocking.”

The UNICEF director linked the phenomenon to the increase in the sex trade in region's countries, which is a consequence of economic problems.

The report released Thursday by UNICEF reveals that HIV is increasingly affecting adolescents around the world. Half of the 5.8 million new cases reported in 1998 were people between the ages of 15 and 24.

In the United States, young people between the ages 13 and 21 represent one fourth of new HIV infections. Young women have fastest growing rate of infection.

The Progress of Nations 1999 states that in eastern Europe and central Asia the proliferation of intravenous drug use has caused explosive growth in HIV rates.

In eastern Europe, some 270,000 people—children and adults—are currently infected with HIV/AIDS. In 1995, the total had not reached 30,000.

A large portion of these cases are adolescents who were infected within the last two years. In the Ukraine, 18,000 teens test positive for HIV.

The UNICEF study warns that the Russian Federation could face a serious increase in HIV rates. The use of intravenous drugs is one of the leading causes of the spread of HIV/AIDS, and in Russia there are several million drug users.

In the Russia's St. Petersburg, as many as 20 percent of people addicted to drugs are adolescents, and some are children as young as 12.

The UN agency estimates that the social turbulence of the former socialist bloc countries has brought about the rise in drug consumption.

According to the UNICEF report, the sexual behaviour of young people has gone through radical changes, and with it, there has been a marked increase in the spread of venereal diseases.

The document states that the number of sexually active women, younger than 18, has increased four-fold in Russia over recent years. The same situation can be seen throughout the region.

In western Europe, 60 percent of teens who are sexually active use condoms, but in eastern Europe, the lack of HIV/AIDS awareness is reflected in high risk sexual behaviour. In Moldavia, just 8 percent of sexually active teens use condoms.

Bellamy called attention to a positive aspect of the report, which is the progress made in the fight to eradicate poliomyelitis, a goal that “is virtually in sight.”

Polio, which at one point resulted in the deaths of half a million people every year, affected 35,000 people a decade ago. But last year, the number of polio cases fell to just 6,000, which Bellamy called “an enormous victory.”

To reach the goal of total eradication of polio before the end of the year 2000 would require financial resources of 1.2 billion dollars, said Bellamy.

The UNICEF director said that several regions are free of polio, such as the Americas and Europe—with the exception of Turkey. Ten years ago, China had 10,000 polio cases, but it is currently free of the disease.

Large parts of east Asia have eliminated the disease, but south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are still affected.

Bellamy underscored the disappointing panorama that awaits the current generations of children who face uncertain futures.

The girl or boy who brings the world's total to six billion inhabitants this year will grow up in an environment where the gap between rich and poor is wider than ever, lamented Bellamy.

The richest 20 percent of the world's population has a total income that is 82 times greater than that of the poorest 20 percent, and consumes 86 percent of the world's resources.