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Children in the European Union are increasingly falling victim to the economic crisis, the EU's rights agency warned Tuesday, citing the case of Greece where school-children were suffering from hunger.
Against a backdrop of rising unemployment and increased deprivation, "child poverty in the EU is an issue of growing concern," said the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in its 2012 annual report.
Some 27 percent of children are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, a higher percentage than the rest of the population, as austerity budget cuts hit education, healthcare and the social services key to the welfare of the young, the report said.
The economic crisis has affected children in a number of EU member states, among them struggling Spain and bailed-out Greece and Portugal, the report said.
In Portugal, a June government decree significantly reduced benefits for families with children, while the Italian Society of Paediatrics warned of the potential impact of budget cuts on healthcare as authorities said two million children were living in families in poverty.
In Greece, where the economic situation is alarming, the report quoted a 2012 study by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noting concern about youth unemployment and school drop-out rates, especially among Roma children.
The Greek Ombudsman said there was an increase in child beggars or children working as street vendors, while Unicef Greece highlighted increasing malnutrition, saying there were more and more incidents of students fainting from hunger at school.