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Monday, 16 December, 2002, 16:58 GMT
Survey: 60% of Russian children unhealthy
Russian babies
Problems begin at birth and get worse, statistics show

More than half the children in Russia are in poor physical or psychological health, a government survey has revealed.

The results of the survey of 30 million children by the Russian Ministry of Health will add to fears of a looming demographic crisis in the country.

Russia's epidemic of ill-health and falling life expectancies have received much international attention over recent years, but the health problems suffered by its children are much less well-known.

The results of the first stage of the nationwide survey showed that 60 per cent were unhealthy.

Mortality rates

The most common conditions were problems of the digestive and motor systems, often coupled with behavioural difficulties and nervous disorders.

Russian women at a street market
Women's health problems compound the difficulties

Russia's top medical experts say the report merely confirms their suspicion that ill-health is afflicting ever-younger sections of the population.

They are developing a plan of emergency measures to boost children's health but say the health problems experienced by Russian women are one of the central reasons for the huge numbers of unhealthy children.

Official statistics show that half the country's expectant mothers are under-nourished.

Two-thirds of Russian babies are subsequently born unhealthy and infant mortality rates in the poorest areas of Russia are higher than in many parts of the developing world.

Health problems begin at birth and appear to get gradually worse.

By the age of 18, when military service beckons, half of Russia's young men are rejected because they are unhealthy.

The country's doctors say that improvements might take years or decades to come, leading Russian demographers to warn that the growing generation might be just as unhealthy as the troubled children of today's Russia.

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28 Aug 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
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