An international children's charity says more than one-fourth of the children in Asia are living in absolute poverty and almost half of them are seriously deprived. In a report issued in Thailand, the group says that many Asian families are not benefiting from the region's booming economy and it has pledged $1 billion in aid over the next decade.
The charity group Plan International says 600 million Asian children are deprived of one of the seven basic needs used to define poverty, including food, safe water, shelter, health and education. And it says 350 million children, equivalent to the population of the European Union, are deprived of two or more basic needs, classifying them as absolutely poor.
The group's executive director, Tom Miller, compares these figures to those of the victims from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of southern Asia eight months ago. "Those (poverty) numbers are absolutely staggering," he said. "The world has focused very much on Asia through the tsunami. But in many ways, what we're talking about is, this is a silent tsunami that is happening every single day."
The group, basing its figures on United Nations statistics, says some Asian countries, like China and parts of Southeast Asia, have considerably reduced their numbers of poor children. But it says significant populations of poor people remain in isolated rural areas and among ethnic minorities.
Plan International says the alarming situation is due to population growth amidst scarce resources, lack of access to social services, discrimination, corruption and poor governance.
Director Tom Miller says a rapidly changing world is producing new groups of vulnerable people, like abandoned and trafficked children, victims of the AIDS virus and rural poor who migrate to the cities. "There's a lot of talk particularly in this region of the benefits of globalization," he said, "but there are some real drawbacks and there are some real losers, and these are the people we are trying to work with most."
The group notes that it is often wrongly assumed that what is best for adults is also best for children. Plan International is advocating new approaches, such as consultations with the children on community projects and collaboration with governments to change policies and social attitudes toward children.
The group has pledged $1 billion for poverty reduction in 12 Asian countries over the next 10 years.