Health and Social Development Minister Zurabov (file photo) (ITAR-TASS)
23 February 2006 -- The Russian government is drafting a program to increase life expectancy and encourage new births in a bid to reverse a steady population decline.
The Associated Press cited Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov on 22 February as saying the program hopes to achieve annual population growth of around 1.2 million by 2015.
Russia's population has dropped steadily in recent years to 143 million as of the beginning of this year. The drop is due mainly to relatively high death rates from accidents, suicides, and disease.
The aim is to encourage couples to have more children and improve health care to decrease infant deaths and deaths from disease. He said the cabinet would consider the program in May.