UK-led project targets child poverty

More than 600 million children live in absolute poverty

Children from four developing countries are to be monitored from infancy to adulthood in a pioneering UK-led project aimed at tackling global poverty. A total of 8,000 youngsters will be carefully selected for the programme, which will last for more than a decade.

They will be chosen from Ethiopia, Peru, Vietnam and India, by teams of researchers and examined intermittently as they grow up.

The organisers of the project, entitled "Young Lives," hope to see how the children's social, physical and economic development is affected by poverty.

Countries studied

Ethiopia - owes $10.4bn in overseas debt

India - the world's second-most populous country, with more than one billion people

Peru - 25% of children under the age of five suffer stunted growth

Vietnam - 80% of population live in rural areas

Some 2,000 youngsters from each country involved will be chosen over the next six months.

Matthew Lockwood, International Co-ordinator for Young Lives, told BBC News Online that families have been happy to take part in similar projects.

"Generally people take a positive view. It makes them feel special and pleased to be contributing to the country in which they live."

The study will begin in early 2002 and continue until the children reach the age of 15.

They will be visited every three years by assessors who will look at various aspects of their lives, including health and their access to education.

Long-term problems

The organisation was given 2.5m ($3.5m) by the UK Department of International Development to help fund the project.

Organisers estimate that more than 600 million children worldwide live in absolute poverty and 183 million weigh less than they should for their age.

South Africa is running a similar programme studying children in poverty

They say this creates problems in later life, such as long-term effects of malnutrition, impaired physical growth and a high risk of mortality for girls during childbirth.

Information gathered will be used to help meet an internationally agreed target of halving the number of people living in absolute poverty by the year 2015.

The countries involved were chosen because they exhibit a range of problems faced by the developing world, such as high debt, transition to a free market economy and emergence from conflicts.

One of the partners in the programme, South Africa, is already carrying out a 10-year study of children's growth.

The project monitors 3,000 youngsters in Soweto and Johannesburg from the age of one to 10, and its results will be used as part of the wider research.

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Referred by:Benjamin Paul
Published on: July 20, 2001
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