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28 Mar, 2024 17:42

Ukraine needs air defense to boost birth rate – Zelensky

More missiles and bomb shelters might motivate Ukrainians to have babies, the president has claimed
Ukraine needs air defense to boost birth rate – Zelensky

Kiev needs more air defense systems to help Ukrainians have more children, President Vladimir Zelensky said on Thursday. Ukraine currently has the lowest fertility rate in the world.

The issue of demographics came up during Zelensky’s meeting with students in Sumy, a city near the border with Russia, when someone asked him if there were plans to financially support new parents.

“We need not only financial incentives, because in my opinion, finances help, but they do not stimulate birth itself during war,” Zelensky said. “Help, yes. But as for births, it seems to me that it’s mainly a matter of security.” 

The government should put air-raid shelters in schools and kindergartens, he added, as well as getting “the latest technologies when it comes to air defense” from foreign partners, manufacture them domestically, and “inform the society about this.” 

Zelensky further argued that there would be a “baby boom” after the conflict is over and millions of Ukrainians who left the country return from abroad “confident in a better tomorrow and the future of Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s total fertility rate – the average number of babies per woman of child-bearing age – is currently 0.7, the lowest in the world. The country’s demographics have been further affected by a mass exodus to the West and significant casualties on the battlefield, to the point where the very survival of the nation is in question, a government-funded think tank told The Times earlier this year.

“Male life expectancy has decreased from 66-67 before the war to 57-58,” said Ella Libanova, head of the Institute for Demography and Social Studies at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Only four African countries – Chad, Nigeria, Lesotho and the Central African Republic – have lower life expectancies.

Last June, the Ukrainian Institute for the Future (UIF) estimated that only 29 million people remained in the country – down from 52 million in 1991, when Ukraine declared independence. These estimates also included residents of the regions that joined Russia. The number of Ukrainian refugees abroad has been estimated by the government at over six million. While Kiev has been hopeful that most of them would come back eventually, the UIF estimated that the majority had no interest in returning.

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