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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
'Half Asian children' in poverty
An Indian boy rummages through rubbish on a river bank
India "has the highest number of poor children in Asia"
Nearly half of Asia's 1.3bn children live in poverty, denied basic needs, says a new report.

India has the largest number of poor children in Asia, with 80% of its 400m young severely deprived, it says.

Child aid organisation, Plan, author of the report, has pledged to spend $1bn on poverty reduction in 12 Asian countries over the next decade.

It also wants rich nations to reduce subsidies given to their own farmers and to cancel Third World debt.

'Serious impact'

The "Growing up in Asia" report states that 600m Asian children under the age of 18 lack access to either food, safe drinking water, health or shelter.

Of those, 350m were described as "absolutely poor", meaning they do not have access to two or more of a child's essential necessities.

A child's gender, class and caste have a significant influence on her or his wellbeing
Growing up in Asia report

"Asia has more than twice as many severely deprived children as sub-Saharan Africa," said Michael Diamond, Plan's Asia regional director.

"This scale of child poverty will have a serious impact on Asia's future prospects, unless it is addressed now."

Despite high growth rates in countries like India and China, millions of families were being left behind, according to the report.

Among the causes, the report said, were the pressure of rapid population growth on scarce resources, lack of access to education, health care, clean water or sanitation, caste discrimination, and weak governance and corruption.

In India, 60% of all children were classed as "absolutely poor", with almost half of all children under five malnourished.

Plan said India also had the highest number of working children in the world.

China, the report said, had made "great strides in poverty reduction in recent years".

Only 13m of its 380m child population were deprived, according to Plan's report.

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