5 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations' Children's Fund says the number of disabled children has risen dramatically in Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism.
In a new report, UNICEF said the total number of disabled children across 27 countries tripled from around 500,000 in 1990 to 1.5 million a decade later.
UNICEF says the surge in numbers was largely due to greater recognition, rather than an actual increase in disability.
But UNICEF said the lot of disabled children has not improved since the region's political and economic transition began in 1989.
It said that despite legislative changes, most of eastern Europe's disabled children continue to be confined in segregated facilities and special schools. Disabilities often go untreated.
Countries in the UNICEF study ranged from new EU members the Czech Republic, Poland, and Estonia to Balkan countries, Russia, Ukraine, and former Soviet republics in Central Asia.