Friday, May 23, 2008

Houston, We Have a Problem

I mentioned in an earlier post, here, that to better understand the adoption situation in Ukraine right now, it is helpful to get some background on the Ukrainian government. I have also been learning about the social conditions in the country, and the problems that the Ukrainian government is tasked with solving.

For the last 15 years, the population of Ukraine has been steadily falling. For the period 1992-2007, the population dropped by about 6,000,000 people. That is a staggering -12%!

I want to call your attention to the following report. It is very illuminating on the current social situation.

The Demographic Situation in Ukraine: Present State, Tendencies, and Predictions
By Ludmila Shanghina
April 6, 2004

It is against this backdrop that we adoptive parents find ourselves contending with Ukraine. The government realizes that their children are important, and for the most part, wants to do the right thing. But the population as a whole is unable or unwilling to respond to the government's call for domestic adoption. There is an enormous societal stigma against orphans. So, orphans are caught in the middle of this sad struggle. Now enter UNICEF, which comes in waving dollars to develop programs that reinforce the government's own tendency to keep their children "home". Government money is provided to foster families, with apparently, limited success. There are anecdotes of corruption in the system.

Anyway, the report was eye-opening for me. I suspect it will be for you, too.

I am listing highlights that I took from the article. I added my own emphases.

  • The demographic situation in Ukraine is characterized by an accumulation of tendencies that are reaching crisis proportions. The population is decreasing, with an increase in the death rate among working-age people and a negative balance of external migration. Under these conditions, a deterioration in interethnic and interreligious relations in society is possible against a background of a worsening socioeconomic situation for most of the population.

  • After 1993, a reduction in the absolute numbers of Ukraine's population began. Over the course of the years 1993-2000, the population of Ukraine dropped by 2.9 million persons, from 52.2 million persons to 49.3 million. Of that number, four-fifths of the losses have been due to natural population losses (an excess of the death rate over the birth rate) and one-fourth as a consequence of migratory processes (an excess of the level of emigration over the level of immigration).

  • The causes of reductions in population numbers are: a reduction in the birth rate, an increase in the death rate, the unsatisfactory state of the health of the population accompanying the low quality of and insufficient access to the health care system in the country, and an excess of the level of emigration over the level of immigration.

  • The reduction in the birth rate in rural areas of the country is reaching crisis proportions. According to data from the State Statistics Committee of Ukraine, out of Ukraine's 28,794 villages, not a single child was born in 12,673 of them in 1999. There are no children aged between six and fifteen in almost one thousand villages.

  • Against this background of a falling birth rate, the number of abortions remains stable and high. According to data from the Ministry of Health Care of Ukraine, 470,000 abortions were registered in the country in 1999. As a point of comparison, the number of births in 1999 came to 389,200 persons. For 320 of each 100,000 women not giving birth as a result of abortion annually, the procedure ends in death.

  • The birth rate coefficient in Ukraine is one of the lowest among European countries (including the post-Communist countries).

  • In contrast to the birth rate, the death rate in Ukraine is one of the highest in Europe.

  • The high death rate among working-age men is an especially alarming phenomenon, capable of causing significant demographic deformations. This level is estimated to be the highest in the world.

  • Among the reasons for the high death rate among the working-age population since 1990, the most important is that of unnatural causes, including accidents, murders, and suicides. The main unnatural cause reflected in the death rate is suicide.

  • The state of the health care system is also getting worse. The number of medical establishments is decreasing and the level of their financing by the state has fallen to a critical level.

  • The so-called social illnesses - such as tuberculosis, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS - are spreading.

  • About nine thousand people die from tuberculosis annually.

  • Syphilis is encountered in Ukraine almost a hundred times more frequently than in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe.

  • Ukraine, in the opinion of experts from UNAIDS and the WHO, has the "most dramatic" epidemic situation with regard to HIV/AIDS among the countries of the former USSR.

  • Ukraine is the leader among European countries with about 500 new cases [of HIV/AIDS] being registered monthly.

  • 95 percent of parents of rural children do not ask for medical aid due to the distance to medical establishments or due to an inability to pay.

  • The dynamics of the basic socioeconomic indices for 1990-2000 testify to a sharp decline in the quality of life for the overwhelming majority of the country's population.

  • Having work does not guarantee a good standard of living.

  • 27.8 percent of the population (13.7 million persons) was considered to belong to the category of the impoverished, and 14.2 percent (almost 7 million persons), to the category of the destitute.

  • Under conditions of spreading unemployment and poverty, the number of marriages is going down (the index of the number of marriages per 1,000 persons fell from 9.3 in 1990 to 5.5 in 2000). This leads, if not to a decrease in reproduction of the population, then to the growth of incomplete families and the spread of social orphans.

  • The worsening socioeconomic situation in the country, the spread of unemployment, and the low price of labor compels people to migrate from Ukraine temporarily in search of work or to leave Ukraine to take up permanent residence in countries with more favorable employment conditions.

  • The unfavorable socioeconomic situation and the constant threat of unemployment and destitution are powerful factors in spreading a socially depressed condition in society. This in turn has an extremely unfavorable influence on the demographic situation by reducing the birth rate and growth.

  • The extremely high death rate for working-age men is also bringing about a distortion in the population structure by sex. In Ukraine, the noticeable excess of the number of women over the number of men begins in the age groups after thirty years of age. With each year, this point is dropping lower down the age pyramid, which will lead to a distortion in reproductive activity-a further drop in the birth rate, an increase in the number of births outside of wedlock, and accompanying increases in the number of incomplete families and social orphans.

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