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Children remain the poorest in Georgia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, March 5
UNICEF states that children remain poorest in Georgia. The ways of collaboration concerning children’s rights, outcomes and future goals were discussed on March 4 at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel where government officials and UNICEF evaluated a joint program of cooperation during an official visit of the UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS to Georgia, Marie-Pierre Poirier.

The Prime Minister of Georgia and several other Georgian officials attended.

UNICEF stresses that the percentage of children living below the national poverty line increased 25% in 2011 to 27% in 2013, as social spending was more focused on other groups.

“Over the last two years, extreme poverty among children has been reduced but remains higher than among the rest of the population. Georgia has the second highest rate of inequality in Europe,” UNICEF warns.

Marie-Pierre Poirier congratulated Georgia on the progress achieved during the last three years. According to her, the government has taken important steps to improve the social situation in the country, including providing free healthcare insurance, doubling social benefits, and increasing pensions.

“However, there are still far too many children who are being left behind: children living in poverty, children with disabilities, children victims of violence, rural children and those living in hard-to reach conflict affected areas,” Poirier emphasized.

UNICEF also underscores that “maternal mortality” remains the highest and mortality from 5 years and below is the third highest in Europe and Central Asia, three times the European average.

“Two thirds of all 15-years-old are not proficient in reading, math and science, which are the worst results in Europe, approximately three times the European average. 70% among the poor do not have access to pre-school,” UNICEF informs.

UNICEF representative in Georgia, Sascha Graumann, told The Messenger that the government is really open to collaboration, consultations, and recommendations. According to him, there are no benefits for children living in extreme poverty in Georgia.

“It would be a very positive step if the government established monthly assistance of such category of children. GEL 30 in a month would be an acceptable choice,” Graumann said.

Minister of Healthcare Davit Sergeenko told The Messenger that the issue is being discussed. He stressed that free healthcare and doubled social benefits have caused positive moves for children as well.

“However, extreme poverty is too hard to address swiftly,” Sergeenko stated.

Minister of Finance Nodar Khaduri emphasized that through “poor financial resources” the country has much to do in addressing social problems. According to him all following financial steps would also be very reasonable.

Minister of Education, Tamar Sanikidze said that the ministry has carried out and plans to undertake various education projects through the assistance of UNICEF, including providing 50% of poorest schools with inclusive, qaulity education.

Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani stated that after the arrival of the new government, the number of juvenile prisoners was significantly reduced. She said that with UNICEF much is being done for the prevention of juvenile crimes. “There is a mediation centre in Tbilisi, there are various programs established through the assistance of UNICEF in which we try to prevent juvenile crimes and help inmates to re-socialize,” Tsulukiani stated, emphasizing that the ministry, through the assistance of UNICEF, plans to present a new juvenile code to the cabinet of ministers soon.

Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili stated that there is no coordination mechanism for carrying out children’s rights in Georgia and appealed to the Prime Minister to get these mechanism established. He also stressed that the NGOs lack resources to carry out monitoring on human rights. Nanuashvili also stated that the priorities should be clearly specified in the children’s right’s action plan, as well as the ways on how the priorities would be met.

“Only priorities are not enough, it is more important on how the priorities are reflected on children’s welfare,” Nanuashvili stated.