Victor Yushchenko is now chairing a meeting aimed at improving child protection in Ukraine. Its participants – ministers, governors, mayors and social workers – are expected to sum up results of his November 2005 decree to declare 2006 a year for the protection of children’s rights, according to the President`s press-office.

In his speech to open the meeting, the President said there had been “radical” positive changes in the past two years in how children in Ukraine live. He said our society was no longer indifferent to orphans, children with particular needs or those abandoned by their parents. He added that his 2006-2010 program to reduce homelessness among children was being carried out throughout Ukraine. Thus the number of adopted children grew by 300% last year and the number of family orphanages by 40%, he said. Mr. Yushchenko is also happy that more babies had been born in 2006 than in 2005.

The President, however, said they “must not stop at what has been achieved.” He complained that the government and other social institutions failed to protect children and their rights effectively.

“Nothing has been done in every fifth region to increase the number of children`s family homes,” he said, adding that their creation was one of the objectives of the country’s social policy. “I am sure that those in charge of this area work inefficiently and so should resign because they cannot appreciate the importance of the problem.”

Mr. Yushchenko also said 64% of Ukrainian families raising more than three children lived in poverty. He added that Ukraine still had relatively high infant mortality (11.5%) and said it was vital to reform the national healthcare system to resolve the problem.

The President called on those present to be “very serious about decisions they are going to make during their meeting today” and asked them to cooperate to fulfill them. 

Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk, Education Minister Stanislav Nikolayenko, Youth and Sports Minister Viktor Korzh, Deputy Secretariat Chief of Staff Viktor Bondar, Zhytomyr Governor Yuriy Pavlenko and Zhytomyr Mayor Vira Sheludchenko are present at the meeting.

Before it, Victor Yushchenko viewed an exhibition of social advertisements and scientific literature.

His priorities for 2007 include:

passing and enforcing a law on the fulfillment of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

promoting and encouraging adoption;

introducing financial aid mechanisms to support children;

eradicating homelessness among children;

reforming the system of orphanages and children’s homes.