Armenia Facing Demographic Crisis, Expert Says

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Despite a slight rise in the number of babies born in Armenia in the last several years–from 38,000 to 39,000 annually–experts said there was little to be optimistic about.
Garik Hayrapetian from the UN Population Fund Office in Armenia’said this did not mean that Armenian women are giving birth to more babies. He explained this %u218insignificant’ rise by the fact that children born in late 1970’s and early 1980’s, which experts say was a baby-boom period, had reached reproductive age, as a result there were more marriages and more babies.
Armenia’s demographic situation has undergone radical changes after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Thus in 2005 37,499 babies were born in Armenia, down from almost 80,000 in 1990.
Hayrapetian says the current trend was cause for serious concern because their estimates suggest that if this trend continues, in some ten years the birth rate will go down to 15,000-20,000 babies a year. Experts also described this trend as a threat to Armenia’s national security, since the population in its neighbor countries is estimated to double by 2030.
Several weeks ago, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced Tuesday that a sharp increase in abortions and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases has prompted the agency’s Armenia office to commission a report on the decline in the birth rate in Armenia.
The UN study is aimed at determining the level of family planning projects, as well as the growing need for education, especially among the youth, in Armenia.
Half of the women in Armenia prefer abortions to birth and five percent of the abortions are performed because of their unwillingness to give birth to a girl, estimates indicated.
Hayrapetian told ArmInfo that frequent abortions are a direct result of not using contraception. The latest research indicated that birth and abortion ratio is 52 percent to 48 percent, while according to official data provided by Health Ministry allegedly deflated the figure by seven times.
The lack of registration of abortions and the unwillingness by medical professionals to record those instances caused the disparity in the figures. Frequent abortions also attest to an increase in secondary sterility, cancer and death while giving birth.
While the agency estimated that on average a woman will have an average of two to three abortions in her life, it also said that child-birth mortality rate has sharply fallen.
"If seven years ago more than 30 women died during child birth every year, now that figure has decreased to 10 to 12 cases a year,” explained Hayrapetian.
At the same time, about 200 new cases of cervical cancer have been registered in Armenia, 50 percent of which are incurable, said the UNFPA official.
He added that voluntary family planning would decrease maternal mortality rate by 20 to 30 percent and child mortality rate by a minimum of 20 percent. He said around 90,000 women have visited the 75 family planning centers operating in Armenia, all of which provide free contraceptives.
The projected report would help the agency to further its efforts to educate the public on this growing problem.


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