Naples, December 11 - Over half the children living in absolute poverty in Italy are in the south of the country, Save the Children Italia said on Tuesday. There are currently 417,000 minors living in a state of total poverty in Italy's southern regions against a total of 720,000, according to the NGO. In southern Italy social spending on children averages 61 euros per child per year - compared to 282 euros per child per year in the northern region of Emilia Romagna - but the figure dips to 25 euros per child per year in Calabria. Save the Children President Claudio Tesauro described the situation as ''dramatic''. ''Child welfare is not a luxury, in such a difficult situation great attention needs to be given to minors: spending on children needs to be sustained and increased, with greater attention paid to school drop-out, poverty and diet,'' he said. Poverty and hardship are most frequent among the more vulnerable population groups including very young mothers. The dearth of places in public nursery schools in southern regions - on average just 5 for every 100 children in Sicilia, Calabria, Campania and Puglia compared to 27 in Valle d'Aosta and Umbria and 29 in Emilia Romagna - and the difficulty of accessing full-time childcare compound the difficulties for working mothers.