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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Sickness blights Russia's children
Homeless girl
Many parents cannot afford to bring their children up
By Rob Parsons in Moscow

Nearly all Russian children suffer from one or more chronic diseases by the time they leave school and many are on the way to alcoholism, according to a report published by Russia's Ministry of Health.

Russia's children
90% unhealthy
Mental disorders up 25%
2.5 million children live on streets
Only one child in 10, it says, can be considered healthy by the age of 17.

The report presents a devastating picture of social deprivation but little that will surprise anyone in Russia itself.

In the years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians have become used to seeing children begging on the streets and scavenging in gangs around housing estates and railway stations.

But the figures makes bleak reading.

According to the report, which was prepared for International Children's Day, mental disorders among children and adolescents have increased by 25% during the last five years.

Beggars in Moscow
Russians are used to children begging and scavenging
And despite some progress in the fight against disease, there are parts of Russia where the incidence of measles, mumps and other diseases is up to 15 times the national average.

More than 2.5 million children live on the streets - many of them abandoned by parents who can no longer afford to bring them up.

Out of every 100,000 children, 760 are registered as alcohol and other drug abusers.

These are devastating figures for a country in the grips of a deep demographic crisis.

Ten years after the start of Russia's economic reforms, the state is still unable to care for its citizens.

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27 Mar 01 | Europe
Russia declares war on beer
30 Jun 00 | Europe
Russia: Drowning in drink
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