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Asia Crisis Said Worst on Females

January 21, 1999

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Women and girls in Southeast Asia have been the hardest hit by regional recession, losing jobs, health care and school opportunities, the U.N. Population Fund said Thursday.

Many women have turned to prostitution to feed their families as factory jobs have become scarce, the U.N. agency said, but they earn less since their clients are also feeling the economic pinch and have little money to spend.

Citing a recent report carried out with the Australian National University, the Population Fund examined the effects of the 18-month crisis on reproductive health, education and employment of women in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Mass unemployment has created a ``new poor,″ the Population Fund said. Unemployment is up and so is the number of school dropouts, with girls the most disadvantaged.

The recession has been especially hard on single mothers or women with heavy financial commitments.

Women turning to prostitution, meanwhile, are likely to have limited education and resources and fail to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.

In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, a clinic treating sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS reported that the number of patients had doubled in the nine-month period surveyed, the report said.

Such health services are under pressure from government cutbacks. The Thai health ministry cut its AIDS budget by 24.7 percent in 1998 compared to 5.5 percent in non-AIDS allocations, the study said.

Reduced access to reproductive health care appears to be leading to back-alley abortions to end unwanted pregnancy, the report said.

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