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Abortions, infant mortality drop in Russia
April 2, 2003

The number of abortions and the infant mortality rate in Russia dropped dramatically over the past five years, although most Russian women still have complications during pregnancy, a top health official said Wednesday.

Olga Sharapova, the deputy health minister, told a parliament hearing that "unfortunately, the state of health of Russian children remains very difficult despite some recent improvements."

She said 80 percent of Russian women had various complications during pregnancy and that only one-third of all births in the country were "normal."

However she said the number of abortions had dropped sharply in recent years as the economic situation in Russia has gradually improved.

There were three abortions registered for every birth in Russian in 1997, Sharapova said.

That figure fell to 1.3 abortions for every birth last year.

Going through a list of other discouraging figures, Sharapova said that some 20 percent of babies were born with some form of defects, and only 33 percent could be called "completely healthy."

But the number of miscarriages has dropped significantly -- from 21,000 in 1997 to 12,000 in 2002 -- reflecting improvements in the health care system.

The Russian health care system crumbled after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and many hospitals, especially those in the far-flung regions, are operating without basic medical equipment.

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