SERBIA: Study shows poor and Roma children excluded

[BELGRADE/SERBIA, 13 June 2007] – New figures show that many poor and Roma children in Serbia are excluded from education, health and protection services.

The figures come from the first national household survey in Serbia to include specific assessments of the poorest 20 per cent of the population and Roma living in Roma settlements.

The results of the survey, carried out in 2005, show that while Serbia’s economic and social development policies have resulted in significant improvements for many, disparities that are often related to poverty and ethnicity are still large and need to be urgently addressed.

“These data clearly show that inclusive policies that specifically target the poorest and excluded children are urgently required and that resources must be widely distributed and targeted to benefit all children in the country,” said UNICEF Acting Representative for Serbia, Maria-Luisa Fornara.

• Child mortality: Among Roma children the probability of dying under the age of 5 is almost three times higher (around 28 per thousand live births) than the national average
• Immunisation: Ethnicity is strongly related to immunisation coverage. While 87 per cent of Serbian children have been immunized against measles, mumps and rubella, this falls to 63 per cent for Roma children.
• Nutritional status: Under-nutrition prevalence among Roma children is several times higher than the national average, with 12 per cent of Roma children underweight and 20 per cent stunted.
Pre-school education: Only 33 per cent of Serbia’s children attend pre-school institutions, but this falls to 7 per cent among the poorest quintile and to 4 per cent among Roma children.
• Primary and Secondary Education: As in most countries in the region, primary education is almost universal. However, dramatic disparities arise in secondary education. Net attendance is 84 per cent national, and only 10 per cent for Roma.
• HIV prevention: Less than 50 per cent of Serbian youth have comprehensive knowledge about HIV prevention. Among the poorest, only 25 per cent of youth have that knowledge. Among Roma, this falls to 7 per cent.

The new data was gathered through a "Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey" (MICS). With 10,000 households surveyed, it is the largest single source of data for monitoring the status of children and women in the country.

The results have for the first time confirmed existing disparities in the country and will significantly contribute to evidence-based policy making. The MICS also includes new indicators targeting areas that had gaps in information, such as children with disabilities or attitudes towards violence. This new initial baseline will be vital to the Government when deciding on priority actions and targeted budget allocations.

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