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Russian Cabinet Approves Health-Crisis Plan

Life expectancy for men is under 60 years (ITAR-TASS) February 23, 2007 -- The Russian cabinet has approved a draft program that will fight diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS, and cancer which are contributing to the country's rapidly declining population.

The program , if approved by parliament, will earmark $3 billion to fight the diseases.

Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov presented the program on February 22.

The move is a response to what experts say is a demographic crisis in Russia: a problematic mix of low birth rates and high death rates.

Declining Population

In 2006, the country's population fell by 560,000 people to 142.2 million.

Life expectancy for Russian men is around 59 years, compared to 75 in the United States or 70 in China.

For Russian women, life expectancy is far higher, around 72. In the United States that figure is 80; in China 74.

Experts have said that, in addition to disease, the high mortality rates are largely due to unhealthy lifestyles -- in particular smoking and alcohol abuse. The situation is worsened by pollution and high suicide rates.

Criticism Of Government

Domestic and international medical bodies have long criticized the Russian government for what they say is official inaction.

But in recent months, Russian President Vladimir Putin has put the issue high on the agenda, saying the declining population is the country's "main issue."

Putin has presented a detailed plan for improving childcare benefits. That, he hopes, will encourage women to have at least the two children needed to maintain a stable population.

The draft program still has to go through both houses of parliament before it becomes law.


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RFE/RL Reports On AIDS

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