UNICEF Study Provides New Insight into How Poverty Affects Children Children in East Asia & Pacific region facing multiple deprivations

 

UNICEF Study Provides New Insight into How Poverty Affects Children Children in East Asia & Pacific region facing multiple deprivations

Global News 00:50
22-11-11_povertyreport_coverBANGKOK/ HONG KONG, 22 November – A new UNICEF study analysing child poverty in East Asia and the Pacific emphasises that poverty affects children in vastly different ways than adults. As a result, policy makers need to look beyond family income indicators to gain a more complete picture of poverty and the deprivations children face.

The study entitled “Child Poverty in East Asia and the Pacific: Deprivations and Disparities” noted that family poverty often affects children most directly through their access to shelter, food, water, sanitation, education, health and information. When a child is deprived of one or more of these essential services, their experience of poverty deepens.

The report reviews child poverty studies carried out in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vanuatu and Viet Nam from 2007 to 2010. Analysing the situation of children living in seven East Asia and Pacific countries with a child population over 93 million, the report found over 30 million suffered from at least one form of severe deprivation, such as the inability to go to school, or access basic health care, safe drinking water, a sanitary toilet or adequate nutrition – and more than 13 million suffered from two or more forms of severe deprivation.

Literature showing the impact of AIDS lying on their desks, adolescent girls and boys listen to a presentation on AIDS awareness and prevention, part of a student-to-student education exchange initiative supported by UNICEF, in a village in the south-eastern province of Svay Rieng.  In 2000 in Cambodia, after more than a decade of intermittent peace, the country is continuing its recovery from 30 years of conflict, including genocide. Despite progress in health and nutrition, maternal and infant mortality rates are the highest in south-east Asia, most of the predominantly rural population still lacks access to essential services, and problems of ongoing violence, displacement and landmines continue to take their toll. HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly, accelerated by a growing commercial sex industry, with an estimated 35 per cent of sex workers under 18 years of age, almost half of whom are presumed to be HIV positive. With half of the country's population under 18 years of age, these indicators represent a major threat to their future, including increased rates of mother-to-child transmission. UNICEF programmes to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS include support for prevention and awareness programmes to all social sectors, including student-to-student education exchanges, the provision of testing and counselling services, and improved access to recovery and care for affected children and families. Accompanied by a toddler, a woman stokes a cooking fire in a village in the south-eastern province of Svay Rieng.  In 2000 in Cambodia, after more than a decade of intermittent peace, the country is continuing its recovery from 30 years of conflict, including genocide. Despite progress in health and nutrition, maternal and infant mortality rates are the highest in south-east Asia, most of the predominantly rural population still lacks access to essential services, and problems of ongoing violence, displacement and landmines continue to take their toll. HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly, accelerated by a growing commercial sex industry, with an estimated 35 per cent of sex workers under 18 years of age, almost half of whom are presumed to be HIV positive. With half of the country's population under 18 years of age, these indicators represent a major threat to their future, including increased rates of mother-to-child transmission. UNICEF programmes to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS include support for prevention and awareness programmes to all social sectors, including student-to-student education exchanges, the provision of testing and counselling services, and improved access to recovery and care for affected children and families.

“The thorough analysis presented in these national studies will help countries target programmes and policies to better reach the most vulnerable in society and to use resources most efficiently,” said Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific.

The seven Asia-Pacific countries were among 53 worldwide that participated in UNICEF’s Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparity, which draws attention to the daily deprivations suffered by children and their negative impact on national development.

In Lao PDR, for example, while 38 per cent of children are assessed as income poor, as many as 75 per cent are assessed as living in poverty based on this broader – and increasingly recognised – measure of child poverty.

In Viet Nam, children from ethnic minority groups are 11 times more likely to suffer from multiple severe deprivations than children from ethnic majority groups – a pattern found in many other countries. In Vanuatu, nearly one in five children suffers from severe health deprivation.

The report also underlines that much more needs to be done to reduce the disparities that impede the development of large numbers of children in East Asia and the Pacific. Inequity is rampant, with income inequality either remaining stagnant or increasing in all seven countries despite significant GDP growth over much of the last decade. Deprivations and disparities faced by children must feature prominently in national development and poverty alleviation plans in the region and inform how resources are allocated. Child-sensitive social protection policies that address the needs of the most vulnerable children will also be essential to reducing the deprivations children face in the region.
Children wash their face and hands at an outdoor tap at Ban Pho Preschool in Bac Han District in remote Lao Cai Province. The UNICEF-supported school promotes hygiene education and other child-friendly activities in a safe learning environment and includes classes taught in the childrens indigenous language.  In March 2009 in Viet Nam, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) to provide bilingual education to ethnic minority children  in Vietnamese and their indigenous language  and to improve adolescent learning, especially among minority ethnic girls. The Norwegian Government and IKEA, the Swedish home-furnishings retailer, are major UNICEF funding partners. Norway has committed US $1.6 million, and IKEA has contributed more than US $1 million for these projects. Although 95 per cent of all eligible children attend primary school, an estimated 20 per cent of the children of the 11 million members of ethnic minorities do not have access to basic education. Additionally, drop-out rates among ethnic minorities are high due to the lack of trained bilingual teachers, limited bilingual texts and curricula and inadequate infrastructure. Adolescent girls are especially at risk because of poverty, cultural biases against gender equity in education and the lack of properly equipped child-friendly schools. UNICEF has worked with MOET since 2007 to research and implement educational models that support bilingual education for indigenous minorities, now benefiting some 5,000 students (including preschoolers) from the Hmong, Jrai and Khmer ethnic groups in the provinces of Lao Cai, Gia Lai and Tra Vinh. The programme to improve adolescent education, adding critical life skills, reaches an estimated 120,000 students and 3,000 out-of-school adolescents, in eight provinces. IKEA is UNICEFs largest corporate funding partner, supporting UNICEF education, child protection and health programmes for children in Asia, Africa and Europe. Unnamed boy waks from a ramshackle shared latrine that is in poor condition. Not a UNICEF project. This is an area inhabited by Kazakh families that have a very different set of traditions to most Mongolians. UNICEF is working with local authoriities to expand itís presence in the are to assist remote communities as part of the CBSS programme, this includes increased access to better services and schools. Bayan Ulgii Aimag centre, western Mongolia, 2007.
Gaps between rural and urban areas, different ethnic groups, geographic areas, and households headed by well-educated versus poorly educated adults were among the most notable disparities across the seven countries.

“Clearly the challenge now facing us in East Asia and the Pacific is to address the additional dimensions of child poverty revealed in this study, building on, but going beyond the foundation of economic growth in the region,” Rao Singh said.

The report also revealed the following trends:

Rural versus urban – child poverty was 30 per cent higher in rural Cambodia than in urban areas, 60 per cent higher in rural Thailand, 130 per cent higher in rural Philippines and 180 per cent higher in rural Viet Nam.

Geographic disparities – sub-national disparities within countries are, in some instances, more pronounced than the disparities between lower- and middle-income countries in the region– for example, the number of children suffering from severe deprivation in Viet Nam was over 6 times higher in the north-west region than the Red River Delta; and 50 per cent higher in southern Thailand than the North.

Disparities among ethnic minorities – disproportionately high levels of poverty and deprivation are evident among some ethnic minority children. This is an issue in almost all seven countries surveyed in the region. For example, the number of severely deprived ethnic minority children was about 60 per cent higher than the number of severely deprived children from dominant ethnic groups in both Lao PDR and Mongolia, 9 times as large in the Philippines and nearly 15 times larger in Thailand.
Education of household head – severe deprivation more than doubled in households where the household head had only a primary-school education or less, compared to households where the household head had secondary or higher education.

Family size – the incidence of severe deprivation in Mongolia and Viet Nam almost doubled in households with more than seven members, compared to those with four or fewer. In Thailand, the incidence more than tripled under these conditions.