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Millions impoverished as Eastern Europe and Central Asia prosper

Millions of citizens across Eastern Europe and Central Asia were surviving on less than $2 a day despite healthy economic growth in the region, according to the latest UN statistics.

Half of the populations of five countries: Uzbekistan, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were caught below the $2 line, according to the statistics compiled by the UN children's agency, UNICEF, the UN Development Program, UNDP and the UN Economic Commission for Europe, UNECE. Children in particular were victims of a growing polarization brought about by the positive economic trend. Every year around 212,000 children died before their fifth birthday in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. In Tajikstan and Albania the numbers of children under five afflicted by stunted growth were on a par with levels found in the poorest parts of the world. The survey shows women too have been left behind. In many of the countries surveyed in 2003 the gender gap in wages between men and women widened to between 30 to 50% with the exceptions of Romania and Bulgaria, where the pay difference fell.

The statistics were vital said UNICEF's Deputy Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Shahnaz Kianian-Firouzgar. „They tell us that too many children, women and families in rural areas of our region are not doing well, that they and their families are excluded from the current economic recovery,” he said. Another problem in the region was the number of children placed in institutions. Russia, has the highest number with 1,200 children per 100,000 in a care establishment. The statistics help monitor countries' progress in moving towards the UN's Millennium Development Goals: halve world poverty, prevent the spread of AIDS and provide education for all by 2015. (