Diseases in Latvia
Currently, 23.4% of the Latvian population is in poverty. This number has risen from the 2019 rate of 21.6%, partly due to the low health care budget and lack of care accessibility. Low socioeconomic status often leads to poor access to health resources. BioMed Research International article states, “Less education, low income or unemployment and lower position in the hierarchal society have a strong positive association with lower levels of perceived health.” Diseases in Latvia affect those in poverty at higher rates and push others into poverty in the aftermath of their destruction.

COVID-19 in Latvia

COVID-19 had significant negative impacts on the steady growth of Latvian life expectancy. Latvia has one of the lowest life expectancies in the European Union (EU). The country was largely unprepared for the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the national health system still struggles with underfunding and supplying equipment and staff. Latvia’s health expenditure per capita is among the fourth lowest in the EU and the country has one of the highest out-of-pocket health care spendings in the EU. Often those in poverty cannot afford health care because of the high out-of-pocket cost. Those fortunate to afford health care often experience severe impacts from the high spending it necessitates and 15% of households have reported spending “catastrophic amounts” on health care.

General Heath and Cancer

In 2019, less than half of the Latvian population stated they were healthy. Only 25% of those in the lowest income quintile reported feeling healthy. In comparison, 69% of those in the highest income quintile reported being in good health, according to the State of Health in the EU report.

Many of the diseases in Latvia causing destruction are preventable and treatable. However, timely health care is necessary to prevent diseases in Latvia from killing more impoverished people. Cancer is one of the most prominent diseases plaguing Latvia. Cancer screening rates, though growing, remain under the average for the EU, contributing to the country’s below-average five-year survival rates, according to the same report. Latvia has attempted to increase screening for cancer through informational campaigns in 2017 and 2019, as well as educational seminars in the workplaces and financial incentive tests to increase screening rates.

How Disease Affects the Poor

In Latvia, 4.3% of the population reported not getting necessary medical care because of out-of-pocket expenses, according to the State of Health in the EU report. In Article 111, the Latvian Constitution declares that “The State shall protect human health and guarantee a basic level of medical assistance for everyone.” Unfortunately, those in poverty in Latvia often do not receive these rights. Often health care providers are also concentrated in urban areas, constricting the availability of needed services to those living rurally.

The Good News

The European Commission hopes to combat the low access to health care and high costs in Latvia and other countries through its newly adopted pharmaceutical strategy. According to the State of the Health in the EU report, Latvia implemented this strategy in November 2020 and focused on making needed medicines affordable by improving the sustainability and capacity of the EU’s pharmaceutical industry. Through this initiative, the EU hopes to ensure access to affordable medicine, address unmet medical needs, and develop safer and more effective medication. Ensuring the availability of medication is one of the essential factors in preventing and treating diseases in Latvia.

– Brooklynn Rich
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Reduction in Latvia
The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 have presented challenges to poverty reduction in Latvia. Due to these factors, Latvia suffered from a high unemployment rate in 2020 and an increasing inflation rate in 2022. Because of this, growth in the Latvian economy has slowed, prompting the government and organizations to take action to ensure Latvia is still on track to meet the 2030 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Impacts of the Pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate in Latvia had significantly lowered, standing at 6.3% in 2019, the lowest percentage visible over a decade. After the onset of the pandemic, the unemployment rate increased to 8.1% in 2020. Women faced the disproportionate impacts of unemployment at the onset of the pandemic. In 2020, Latvia’s GDP saw contracted by 3.9% but expanded by 4.5% in 2021, according to the World Bank. The World Bank reports that the number of people in Latvia living under the national poverty line stood at 21.6% in 2019 but increased rapidly to 23.4% by 2020.

Growing Inflation Due to the Russia-Ukraine War

Another economic instability happened when the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war touched international trade in Europe. In Latvia, inflation became an issue. As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “food, energy, and other raw material” costs have risen. Inflation in Latvia rose beyond 10%, the highest rate visible since 2008.

By March 2022, inflation in Latvia reached 11.5%. “Housing-related goods and services” rose by 14.5% on average while “transport-related goods and services increased by 22.9%, driven by a 43.3% increase in fuel prices,” according to the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

The growing inflation rates are most harshly affecting impoverished families, but pensioners are most at risk of poverty amid the rising prices, with many unable to afford their heating bills.

Efforts Toward Poverty Reduction in Latvia

In May 2022 the Latvian government adopted the second Voluntary National Review (VNR), which “evaluates progress, challenges and presents new initiatives to accelerate the achievement” of the SDGs, according to the U.N. These SDGs include No Poverty (SDG 1) and Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8).

In a 2022 report assessing Latvia’s SDG progress, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said that “We are helping those most in need and promoting equal opportunities for all in Latvia.” He explained further that the government is prioritizing housing and mobility initiatives to expand economic growth and promote decent work out of Riga, Latvia’s capital city. Furthermore, Latvia is “improving access to health care, including significantly increasing salaries for the lowest paid medical practitioners.” The government is also raising the minimum income threshold for individuals most vulnerable to poverty. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Latvian government provided support to people and businesses impacted by economic stagnation and lockdowns.

The Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation (LAPAS) came about in 2004 to bring Latvian non-governmental organizations together in order to promote development in Latvia. LAPAS works toward the achievement of the U.N. SDGs through advocacy efforts, global education priorities, the promotion of local organizations and educating and updating the public on developmental issues via workshops, social media, lectures and more.

Through ongoing commitments toward achieving the U.N. SDGs, the Latvian government and organizations can reduce poverty in Latvia while igniting economic growth and improving the quality of life in Latvia overall.

– Olga Petrovska
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking in Latvia
The U.S. Department of State produces an annual Trafficking in Persons Report to assess the progress of countries in steps taken to eliminate human trafficking in Latvia according to the standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). In terms of efforts to address human trafficking in Latvia, the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report on Latvia ranks Latvia as a Tier 2 country, meaning “Latvia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”

Human Trafficking Struggle in Latvia

Latvia has struggled with human trafficking for a long time and many Latvians have been victims of the cruel trade. Data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reveals that “every year approximately 2,000 people become victims of human trafficking in the Baltic.” Trafficking rings were even able to take advantage of the recent pandemic, preying on desperate people facing job losses and financial difficulties. Under the guise of job opportunities, traffickers lured Latvians desperate for work and income.

There are certain factors that complicate the counterattack against human trafficking rings, such as limited resources and education for identifying victims. It is also tough to follow where the money goes in the multinational networks of human trafficking.

But Latvia is doing its utmost to meet the standards set by the TVPA to protect more of its citizens from trafficking. The country is making efforts to keep its citizens safe: Latvia conducted more investigations into trafficking cases and the government amended the labor law to protect employees and worked to identify more trafficking victims, the Department of State reported.

Aid to the Cause

Even though efforts are underway to create a stronger fighting force against traffickers, trafficking is still prevalent. Statistics on human trafficking in Latvia come from reported incidents, however, many cases go unreported. But, fortunately, there are many organizations that are up to the test of tackling this problem head-on.

MARTA is a nonprofit organization that came about in 2000 and is the “only women’s rights advocacy institution in Latvia.” MARTA “provides professional, social, legal, psychological services to adult victims of violence and human trafficking, ensures assistance to women and their children in vulnerable life situations,” among other services.

Many of MARTA’s programs focus on upholding the rights of women and children while decreasing the prevalence of violence and providing training to educators.

In the period of up to 180 days, victims can receive specialist help in form of social workers, psychologists or legal help. Victims can also receive medical assistance, safe shelter and health check, among others, depending on their needs. Victims can receive support from MARTA for a longer period if they become witnesses in criminal proceedings. Latvia’s state budget covers all the costs of social rehabilitation services, therefore it is free of charge for the victims. According to its website, “To receive the service, you must register for a consultation at the MARTA Centre via phone call and write an application.”

Knowledge of human trafficking is valuable as it allows more people to protect themselves and prevents others from becoming victims. With ongoing efforts from organizations and the Latvian government, the prevalence of human trafficking in Latvia could reduce and Latvia could move closer to Tier 1 status.

– Kelsey Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in LatviaMany know Latvia, a small country in Eastern Europe that Lithuania and Estonia border, for its seaside capital city and rich cultural heritage. Following its swift recovery after the 2008 financial crisis, the country’s elderly population overshadowed Latvia’s strong economy. Brought on by a declining working-age labor force, the rate of elderly poverty in Latvia remains a point of concern.

The Vulnerability of the Elderly

In 2015, the World Bank unveiled a report titled “The Active Aging Challenge for Longer Working Lives in Latvia,” which presents data on the status of elderly poverty in the country. In coordination with the Latvian government, the project set out to discover how to develop a strategy to promote “longer working lives” while emphasizing the need to make better use of the existing workforce.

The results point to shrinking younger generations as the main contributor to elderly poverty over declining life expectancy rates. The report highlights two key risk factors that are causing the working population to dwindle: emigration and low fertility rates. An overall population decline of 0.5% each year is due to emigration siphoning workers out of the country.

However, low birth rates fail to provide the backup labor necessary to keep the economy stable. By 2035, this trend predicts that working-age populations will decrease by 23%. Furthermore, a report that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published determined that those in the 65 and older age group will increase in number by 50%, catapulting the elderly poverty rate in Latvia to double the average in comparison to other EU countries.

Lack of Safety Nets and Workforce Integration

The Latvian pension system is one of the problems which inherently stands in the way of solving elderly poverty in Latvia. Back in 1996, the government introduced the NDC scheme, or in other words, the pay-as-you-go system. This allowed individuals to make contributions to their retirement fund as they wanted. However, with the elderly population on the rise, it has become evident that those who made low contributions find themselves with very little to support themselves on.

Women in the 75 and older age group made the smallest contributions. The poverty rate of Latvia remains the highest across OECD countries. Additionally, the country has the lowest level of income among older people of OECD countries. Those who choose to remain employed find that only 40% of Latvian companies provide any training. This makes integration into the workforce much harder. Latvia has the highest proportion of people in the European Union with healthcare and education inequalities. This is due to a lack of training by firms and workers.

Lending a Helping Hand

The Riga Acting Seniors Alliance (RASA) aims to support Latvian individuals older than the age of 50 who are at risk of elderly poverty and help reintegrate them into society. Most notably, it connects seniors to others who share the same interests.

Caritas Latvia is another group that targets lonely seniors, the unemployed and people in poverty. It implements home visits, food and clothing drives, crisis centers and other volunteer work to help people in need. Caritas has pointed out that it will not be able to complete its work until spending on social protection increases to include the elderly at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

Looking Forward

The country’s government recognizes the problem of elderly poverty in Latvia and has incorporated elderly poverty reform into its legislative goals. A survey that the Central Statistical Bureau (CSB) conducted in 2019 found a 0.4% decrease in populations at risk of poverty in comparison to a similar study in 2017. This drop was due to the rise in the minimum wage, changes to the income tax application and increased social benefit offerings such as pension plans. The changes signal a promising start to resolve Latvia’s core socioeconomic issues as well as a commitment to achieving progress.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Latvia
Latvia is located in the Baltic region. This northern European country’s active involvement in many international organizations allows for it to have diverse approaches to its policies. However, Latvia still has a long way to go when it comes to societal issues such as mental health. In fact, poor mental health in Latvia was one of the leading contributors to disease burden in 2017.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a balance between an individual’s potential, community interactions and everyday stressors of life. A high number of mental health disorders in a country results in social and economic burdens. Therefore, mental health treatment plays a crucial role in the overall health of a country’s citizens.

The population at risk of experiencing poor mental health are citizens who report a low level of social connection and household income. As the WHO’s definition of mental health describes, community and everyday stressors, such as economic issues, correlate to overall life satisfaction.

Societies typically measure mental health to increase diagnosis and treatment. Compared with other European countries, Latvia has lower indicators of mental health. Here are four key facts to know about mental health in Latvia.

4 Key Facts About Mental Health in Latvia

  1. The Progression of Mental Health Care: When Latvia was a part of the Soviet Union, patients took on a more passive role in their mental health medical treatment. Since then, Latvia restored its independence in 1991 and joined the European Union and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in 2004. With its global involvement, Latvia not only gained allies but was also able to learn more diverse ways of treating mental health. Before joining the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2016, Latvia had to follow criteria related to quality health care such as giving patients a more active role in their treatment. As a result of these guidelines, Latvia is now moving toward better psychiatric care
  2. Rate of Diagnosis: A 2012 study assessed depression in a general population of Latvia for one year. It then measured how many people with this mental illness sought out health care. Results indicated that depression is under-diagnosed in Latvia. Latvia has improved its efficiency despite the health care system remaining underfunded. Changes like these are a part of a larger plan to increase mental health care.
  3. Progress Toward the Sustainable Development Goal 3: The United Nations has a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes encouraging mental health and well-being. Overall, the U.N. developed 17 goals to achieve prosperity. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Latvia is still making progress toward these goals through its parliament’s push for civic engagement. With an increase in political participation, more policies will develop that reflect the needs of its citizens, including in the mental health sector.
  4. Latvia’s National Development Plan: Latvia currently has a National Development Plan for 2021-2027. The country developed this primarily economic policy in accordance with the U.N. Agenda for Sustainable Development. Among these goals, Latvia included a section on quality of life, which stresses the importance of mental health along with physical health. In order to accomplish this, the country plans on having targeted cooperation between rural and urban areas and municipal cooperation between the economies in different regions. This cooperation will allow for participation that will recognize the various needs of its citizens.


A nonprofit organization called Ritineitis has a foundation called the Adult Non-formal Education Center Azote that focuses on mentoring for educational and professional needs. One project, “ASNI,” allowed young people to come up with proposals that would help the daily life of Latvia’s citizens. The goal of this project was to promote youth civic participation. Numerous projects came out of this competition, including the promotion of youth sports, exercising and even weaving. Participating in civic participation at a young age will most likely lead to continuing this practice later in life. This participation will increase policies aimed at the societal needs of Latvian citizens, in turn, increasing mental health awareness.

Latvia may have lower mental health indicators than other European countries, but its current policies are working to improve ways to record this type of data. Its National Development Plan recognizes the need to promote “health literacy [as] a national priority.” Overall, Latvia is moving forward in its plans to increase the social and physical well-being of its population.

–  Mia Banuelos
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in LatviaLatvia is a small country in the Baltic region with a population of fewer than 2 million people. The republic was under Soviet control from 1940 until it gained its independence in 1991. Latvia has made noticeable progress increasing its life expectancy rate at birth over the last few decades from 70.2 years in 2000 to 74.8 years in 2015. However, the country is currently undergoing major demographic shifts. While its birth rate is decreasing, its death rate is high, ranked fourth in the world. In addition to various public health threats, the healthcare system in Latvia is grappling with significant challenges that affect its efficiency and quality. Here are five things to know about Healthcare in Latvia

5 Things to Know About Healthcare in Latvia

  1. Several indicators show that the public health profile in Latvia is relatively weak in relation to comparable countries. For instance, the country’s life expectancy in 2015 was the third-lowest among EU countries. In the same year, Latvia had the highest notification rate of Hepatitis C in the EU. In 2014, adult obesity levels were at 21%, placing Latvia third among EU countries.
  2. Latvia spends less than similar countries on healthcare. In 2015, the country spent only 5.8% of its GDP, equal to €1,071 per capita. This falls considerably below the EU average of 9.9%. These statistics showcase the lingering challenges of the country’s underfunded healthcare system. Physician and hospital bed density rates also provide clarity in this respect. In 2017, Latvia had 3.19 physicians and 5.6 beds per 1,000 people.
  3. Obesity, smoking and heavy drinking are major poor health trends in Latvia. In 2015, the average Latvian adult consumed 10.8 liters of alcohol. Furthermore, 20% of adults in the country heavily consume alcohol regularly, with men being the greater consumers than women. In addition, one in four adults in the country smoked daily in 2014. This is a higher percentage than the EU average of 21%.
  4. Healthcare in Lativa has undergone many reforms since the country gained independence in 1991. In 2011, the country created a National Health Service (NHS)-type system. The NHS controls the implementation of healthcare policies, while the Ministry of Health develops policies and oversees the system. Though all citizens receive coverage through the system, patients still have to pay for user charges and other significant out-of-pocket costs. In 2014, Latvia ranked second among EU nations in its household out-of-pocket expenses to health expenditures ratio, which was 39%.
  5. A Latvian individual’s likelihood of exposure to poor health outcomes depends on his social and economic status. For instance, according to the European Health Interview Survey, more than 3% of Latvians have asthma. People from lower-education and lower-income backgrounds are the most susceptible group. Inequalities also emerge with regard to perceptions of health among Latvians. Approximately one-third of Latvians from low-income backgrounds claim to be in good health, in contrast to two-thirds from high-income backgrounds. Similarly, access to healthcare varies depending on location. Those living in rural areas may face greater difficulty accessing health services owing to shortages of medical professionals in these areas.

Based on these facts, it is clear that healthcare in Latvia needs critical adjustments in order to improve the country’s health profile. Not only is Latvia’s spending on this sector very low compared to other EU nations, but problems like obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption signal an urgent need for improvement. Ensuring equal access is also an important goal for the country to strive toward.

Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Pxfuel

Poverty in Latvia
The Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation (LAPAS) is fighting poverty in Latvia by helping the country develop and provide education to the people. This organization is unique in that it works with several different types of organizations in order to help the people of Latvia in several different ways.

Poverty in Latvia tends to affect the elderly the most. In 2016, Latvia was neck-and-neck with Estonia for people above 65 being at risk of falling into poverty among a handful of other nations. An NGO like LAPAS is vital to helping these elderly people by changing their surroundings; but, LAPAS is also vital for paving the way for the next generation. Additionally, helping the elderly who are at risk of falling into poverty in Latvia also helps the next generation by taking the burden of taking care of these elderly off of them. Most people may not think about Latvia as being a poor country, but, in 2018, 22.9% of Latvians were in danger of falling into poverty.

4 Facts About Poverty in Latvia

  1. The poverty risk rate has stayed relatively steady for the four years leading up to 2018.
  2. The city of Latgale is most at risk of poverty with a percentage of 40.4%.
  3. The city of Pieriga is the least at risk of poverty with a percentage of 14.4%.
  4. Citizens who are single and over the age of 65 have the highest risk factor of falling into poverty. In fact, about 74.9% of the at-risk citizens were single and over the age of 65.

The Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)

The Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation is a part of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP). More than 11,000 Civil Society organizations work with GCAP. GCAP officially emerged in 2005. GCAP partly helped draft the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the U.N. as well as Agenda 2030. In addition, GCAP has stepped up to the challenge of COVID-19 by bringing together more than 400 NGOs, human rights organizations and others to advocate for people on every continent of the world.

To fight poverty in Latvia, it takes more than providing food for a few weeks on and off when funds are available. For long-term betterment, there needs to be a focus on improving specific aspects of society. LAPAS has that focus. It works from multiple angles to build a better future for the citizens of Latvia. Here are some areas of Latvian society that LAPAS works in:

  1. Education
  2. Government
  3. Development
  4. Environment
  5. Health care for children
  6. Non-discrimination policy
  7. Government

In conclusion, Latvia may not be one of the countries that one’s mind immediately goes to when thinking of poverty. But Latvia’s poverty numbers have held steady for too many years to ignore. The Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation is a shining example of an organization that understands the multifaceted approaches that Latvia needs to take in order to fight poverty. Hopefully, its efforts against poverty in Latvia will continue for years to come.

– Moriah Thomas
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in Latvia
After the Great Recession of 2008, Latvia saw a large rise in its homeless population. After a 389% increase in homelessness from 2009 to 2017, the nation recorded 6,877 homeless people, three-quarters of whom are concentrated in Riga. Data from 2018 also displays that the majority of subjects living in shelters are pre-retirement, ages 41 to 61. Coupled with its lack of affordable housing and deteriorating household economic situation, Latvia has long struggled to provide organized and well-funded state programs to its homeless population. As the government continues not to act, many citizens struggle against addiction, health problems, a weakening economy and stereotypes that exacerbate homelessness in Latvia.

Why Latvia Has Been Unsuccessful So Far

Latvia’s main weakness within its programs is the lack of national and state support. Measures to address homelessness in Latvia are left entirely to the local authorities, which are often inadequate and only provide low-intensity aid. For example, shelters do not offer essential and progressive services such as transfers to temporary or permanent accommodations, making it difficult for individuals to leave shelter systems. Latvia dismisses this issue to such a great extent that has yet to even recognize a formal definition of homelessness in its legislation. The nation’s poor funding and organization, as well as the exceedingly small size of its housing stock, causes the ineptitude of homeless prevention. Municipalities provide social housing exclusively, though some larger governments have formed specific companies to maintain and manage public stock.

Most shelters in Riga have limited services that only provide basic emergency shelter and minimal support-worker time. Displaced individuals thus struggle to re-establish themselves in society and find sufficient private housing, leaving them stuck in public housing systems. Those with alcoholism or other addictions may use detox and rehab programs that Latvian social services provide, but these interventions are costly at €200 for 28 days with an additional €50 per month for accommodation.

Discrimination Against the Homeless

A pervading culture of discrimination also limits opportunities for displaced citizens. In 2018, Latvijas Sabiedriskie Mediji, the official news portal of Latvian radio and television, reported a case of blatant prejudice towards 43-year-old homeless man Gunārs. Gunārs did not qualify for free healthcare, as he was the victim of an inventive tax evasion scheme that firms targeting the homeless used. However, even after Gunārs offered proper payment and was proved a registered patient, the doctor still denied him treatment by claiming his intoxicated state was in violation of code and removing him from the premises. The news source’s further investigation revealed mistreatment towards alcoholic clients at the Red Cross shelter on Gaizina street, which limited drunk individuals to stay on the first floor where they faced verbal and physical abuse by guards and even preachers.

Persons without tax-paying families are also unable to claim financial assistance, as applications of welfare for homeless citizens can only occur through the head of the household based on additional household costs. Latvian citizens returning from abroad are also subject to police inquiry and assessment to determine whether people have a genuine reason to be homeless.

A recent video campaign that the local transport authority in Riga released encourages this anti-homeless sentiment by urging passengers who encounter homeless individuals on their commute to call the police to arrest them. The advert repeatedly plays on the screens of buses, trams and trains throughout the city that advise citizens to identify homeless individuals through their “odor.”

Initiatives to Reduce Homelessness in Latvia

Fortunately, Latvia has taken steps to improve conditions for its homeless citizens. The Riga Central Library, for example, started an initiative in 2017 by collaborating with a local day center to serve as an easily accessible intermediary for homeless clients seeking social needs. The library also solicits food, toiletries and supplies for the homeless; offers brochures, posters and handouts that describe the services available within the library/community; and offers assistance in public service application forms, as well as time to discuss with lawyers, social workers and career consultants.

According to the 2019 ESPN Thematic Report on National Strategies to Fight Homelessness and Housing Exclusion, the government aims to develop a uniform housing policy that improves insufficient social housing, develops affordable quality housing support mechanisms, expands the range of services offered to homeless individuals and prevents homelessness through increased material support. Additionally, the plan strives to ensure that national and local governments designate fiscal funds to make this goal a reality. Statistics from 2019 showed a 3% decrease in Riga’s homeless population in comparison to the previous year, which could indicate that these projects had some positive impact.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has also hastened the Latvian government to take more direct action. To prevent further evictions, the Riga municipality has guaranteed both minimum income benefits and housing benefits for its population. Citizens can also request food from the city’s six food dispensers. In addition to increasing funding for social services provided to homeless and vulnerable persons by €93,320, the Riga Municipality has demonstrated initiative in enforcing hygiene to stop the spread of COVID-19 in shelters by increasing funding to the Blue Cross Men’s Shelter of the Evangelical Christian Church by €4,211 to install five toilets and two disinfection tables.

These new policies could indicate a shift toward greater direct government funding and organization to help homeless persons. By aiming to reduce both shelter occupation numbers and rates of poverty in the next decade, the elimination of homelessness in Latvia is possible.

– Christine Chang
Photo: Flickr

hunger in latvia
Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania border Latvia, a country on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. The country has been officially independent since 1991 due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As a country, Latvia is about half the size of Greece and has had a population of about 2.2 million people since 2019. However, underneath the country’s beautiful scenery and culture, there is plenty of poverty and hunger in Latvia.

The Current State in Numbers

Of all the countries in the European Union, Latvia is the fourth poorest country. Due to this status, roughly 25% of the population in Latvia lives below the poverty line. With an average household size of 2.4 individuals, Latvian families may struggle, as the median household income is $7,732. Although the cost of living in Latvia is 28.54% lower than in the United States, the cost of living, transportation and other necessities do not always leave enough room for families to purchase food. The ones who suffer the most from food insecurity include young children and senior adults.

Although hunger has remained an ongoing problem in Latvia for years as a result of World War I, the country has made waves to fight it. According to the Global Health Index, a tool that rates countries one to 100 based on statistics like child mortality and malnourishment, Latvia is the fifth most improved country. From 2000 to 2015, there was a 59% decrease in hunger, with an average shift from 8.3 in 2000 to 3.4 in 2015.

Food Insecurity and Hunger

To decrease food insecurity within Latvia, several initiatives have emerged to help the country. A European Union program called Food Distribution for the Most Deprived Persons of the Community has been active since 2006 and receives funding from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund. This organization works with the Latvian Red Cross to distribute food packages for individuals in need. According to a Transmango National Report on Food and Nutrition Security in 2015, there were 448 distribution centers throughout Latvia.

Besides this E.U.-sponsored program, NGOs and other charitable organizations, such as Paēdušai Latvija, have worked to combat hunger in Latvia. Paēdušai Latvija is a charity based in Riga, Latvia, that emerged in 2009. As of 2015, Paēdušai Latvija has a network of 56 charity organizations throughout Latvia. Besides the work its network is doing, Paēdušai Latvija receives more than 1,200 requests for emergency food supplies every month. However, it can only satisfy about 500 of those requests each month.

The Future of Hunger in Latvia

The programs in existence have proved successful as the rates of hunger in Latvia have plateaued. Since 2016, the rate of hunger in Latvia has remained stagnant at 2.5%. According to the 2019 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Latvia is one of 17 countries with a GHI score of less than five. Due to more and more individuals within the country and outside of it continuing to donate and mobilize individuals, the rate of hunger in Lativa seems as though it will shrink in the coming years.

Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Pixabay

Life Expectancy in Latvia
Latvia is a small country located in the Baltics, bordering Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia. In 2018, the life expectancy in Latvia was 75 years, slightly above the average global life expectancy of 72.6 years. Since 2006, the total life expectancy in Latvia has been slowly growing at a rate of about .35 per year. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Latvia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Latvia

  1. Differences Based on Sex: The life expectancy for women in Latvia was 79.6 in 2018, as opposed to 70 for men. Generally, there is about a 10-year difference in life expectancy between men and women in Latvia, as opposed to the five-year difference which is the average in the European Union. The Baltic News Network has attributed this to greater rates of cancer and a general culture of ignoring health problems among men in Latvia. 
  2. Leading Causes of Death: The leading causes of death in Latvia are ischemic heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and lung cancer. The only of these causes to increase in percentage from 2007-2017 is Alzheimer’s disease. The rest have decreased by at least 17 percent during that span.
  3. Risk Factors: There are several risk factors involved in Latvian fatalities. Among the leading risk factors are dietary risks, alcohol and tobacco use, high blood pressure and a high body-mass-index. In addition, there are environmental risk factors in Latvia. For example, estimates determine that air pollution is the eighth largest risk factor for Latvians in 2017. Recently Latvia has seen legislation geared at reducing some of these factors, such as a law passed in 2016 requiring health warnings on cigarette packaging.
  4. Spending: In 2016, the average Latvian spent $995 a year on health care. People spend around $437 out of pocket and $549 came from the government. By 2050 projections determine that the number will double. For reference, the average American, the world’s highest spender on health care, spends approximately $10,000 a year on health care.
  5. Self-harm: Self-harm is a major problem in Latvia, causing 729 deaths per 100,000, significantly above the mean in Europe. Likewise, Latvia had the lowest rate (31 percent) of people who reported being happy within the last four weeks of any European nation in 2018. In 2014, Latvia launched its first campaign called “Don’t Turn Away,” to address these issues, increase social awareness of self-harm and destigmatize talking about mental health issues. From 2014 to 2016, Latvia saw its suicide rate drop from 19.31 percent to 18.73 percent.
  6. Infant Mortality: The infant mortality rate in Latvia was 3.3 deaths per 1,000 births in 2018. This was a significant decrease from an infant mortality rate of 15.8 in 1994. Also, this is significantly lower than the global infant mortality rate of 29 deaths per 1,000 births in 2017.
  7. Health Care System: Though Latvia has universal health care, patients still have to pay out of pocket for a lot of treatments. Latvia has a negative list of benefits, which means that the government pays for all treatments except those specifically listed. General taxation pays for this universal health care plan.
  8. Physicians: Latvia currently has 3.19 physicians for every 1,000 people who live in the country. A steep drop off occurred between 2009 and 2010. Back then, the number of physicians dropped from around 3.7 physicians to 3.1 physicians per 1,000 people. However, since then, the number of physicians has been steadily rising. This is significantly higher than the world average of 1.5 physicians, but slightly below the average in the European Union of 3.57 physicians per 1,000 people.
  9. Government Treatment Towards Health Care: The Latvian government gives a low priority to health care, as it makes up only 5.5 percent of its annual budget. The average country in the E.U. spends about 10 percent of its budget on health care. Latvia has seen major reform in its health care system, which helps the country increases its overall life expectancy. The low wages in Latvia contribute to a lot of corruption within the health care system. This corruption comes in the form of out-of-pocket payments from individuals to doctors, who use it as a supplement to their salaries. Surprisingly, the general public is accepting of this practice, since many believe it promotes honesty and good service.
  10. Relationship with the European Union: The European Union has worked to invest in better infrastructure for Latvian hospitals. The European Union allocates 64 million euros for new equipment in Latvia’s biggest hospital located in Riga in 2017. This will increase access to high-quality health care for Latvia’s 2 million citizens by 2023.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Latvia show that there needs to be an improvement in the Latvian health care system. On the other hand, there is a lot of promise in the betterment of this health care system. The steady increase in life expectancy has shown the positive effects of some reform. This will likely continue in the future as the government works to better address health problems, and the Latvian health care system receives aid from the European Union.

– Ronin Berzins
Photo: Flickr