Mental Health in LithuaniaLithuania is a small country in northeastern Europe and one of the three Baltic States. The nation gained independence from the Soviet Union only in 1990, significantly impacting its culture and people. Despite its size and dark history, the country’s economy ranks 79th among major economies in the world. Unfortunately, the country has been facing an issue of suicide that is linked to mental health problems in Lithuania.

The Mast of the Issue

The country’s suicide rate is the highest in Europe, with around 23 suicides per 100,000 residents each year, compared to the European average of around 12.

According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in California, mental health illnesses can cause and contribute to poverty. Left untreated, they can lead to poor quality of life, incarceration, substance misuse, homelessness, disability and suicide.

The main reasons for suicide are losing the meaning of life, enduring circumstantial challenges such as financial problems, the death of a loved one and, most importantly, mental illnesses. According to Eurostat statistical data, about 7% of Lithuanians experience chronic depression. Unfortunately, Lithuanians tend to avoid reaching out to mental health specialists, so the number may not be totally accurate.

How Hospitals Manage Mental Health in Lithuania

According to the National Library of Medicine, there are some positive aspects of Lithuanian health care, but minuses are also noticeable.

Currently, these aspects are lacking:

  • Public-based accommodation
  • Mental and vocational rehabilitation
  • Therapy
  • Effective programs to improve the psychological wellness of kids in the community
  • Assistance for vulnerable families

Mental Health Issues Among Genders

Although men who live in rural areas and are less educated commit suicide more often, women attempt to take their own lives more frequently. During the coronavirus pandemic, Lithuanian women also reported feeling worse emotionally than men. This issue in Lithuania and other countries was linked to unequal household responsibilities, which made enduring the pandemic more challenging for women. Additionally, suicide rates among prisoners and detainees are several times higher than the national average.

Children and the Unfortunate Situation

According to a WHO survey, Lithuania is one of the European countries with the highest rates of bullying in schools, affecting almost one in three Lithuanian teenagers. It’s worth noting that more boys than girls reported both being bullied and bullying others.

Fortunately, Lithuania has recognized the issue of bullying and there are numerous programs focused on its prevention. Teachers and parents are encouraged to have discussions with their children about the topic. Additionally, “Vaikų linija” (Eng. “Child Line”), a hotline for young people seeking emotional support, has been operating since 1997. Its activity is based on voluntary work, with about 400 volunteer consultants. In 2021, volunteers answered 105,785 calls from children, which accounted for 72% of the total number of calls received.

Although young people can call and chat about their hardships, the volunteers of the NGO claim that most children express thoughts of suicide.

The Good News

Although the coronavirus pandemic, high inflation rates and the ongoing war in Ukraine have negatively affected mental health in Lithuania, specialists still see a light at the end of the tunnel. According to a survey by the Lithuanian company “Spinter Tyrimai,” the mental health among adults in Lithuania returned to pre-pandemic levels last November, with 60.4% of people reporting good psychological well-being. This was likely due to Lithuania’s loosened restrictions on human contact.

Since seeking psychological healthcare can be expensive, Lithuanians can obtain long-term help at crisis centers. Women in need of short-term emotional help can turn to “Pagalbos moterims linija” (English: “Helpline for Women”), while men can seek assistance from “Vyrų linija” (English: “Men’s Line”). Emotional support can be obtained through phone calls, emails, or anonymous online chats.

“Pagalbos moterims linija” has been working since 2003 and receives over 26,000 calls yearly. In contrast, “Vyrų linija” started its activity only in 2020 when mental health and well-being among people decreased. During the first two months, specialists from this helpline provided over 200 hours of consultation to men.

These efforts and trends are suggestive of progress and a more positive future where Lithuanians have access to support systems that make them less likely to resort to suicide.

– Agnė Jankauskaitė
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Lithuania
Lithuania, located in the Baltic region of Europe, is known for its history of the Crusades, Soviet occupation and interesting dishes — like cold beetroot soup, among others. However, like all countries, Lithuania has to find hunger solutions. Lithuania has a Global Hunger Index score of less than five, but faces increased poverty rates. Additionally, the country’s level of poverty risk was the third highest in the E.U. Yet, the government of Lithuania and organizations like the Red Cross are combating hunger in innovative ways. Below are five facts about hunger in Lithuania.

5 Facts About Hunger in Lithuania

  1. Lithuania is one of 17 countries with a GHI score of less than five, signifying a low hunger level. The Global Hunger Index is a peer-reviewed yearly report intended to measure and record hunger at the global, regional and country levels. GHI scores evaluate progress and impediments in battling hunger. The GHI takes food supply, child mortality and child undernutrition into account.
  2. The depth of the hunger score is encouraging. The calculation, measured in kilocalories per person per day, is based on a malnourished person’s diet and the minimum amount of dietary energy needed to maintain body weight and engage in light activity. The higher the number, the greater the hunger in the country. The depth of hunger reported in Lithuania was 120 in 2008. Among countries in transition, Lithuania has one of the lower scores.
  3. In 2019, Lithuania elected Gitanas Nauseda as President. Before becoming president, Nauseda was an economist and a banker. Nauseda plans to develop Lithuania into a welfare state and hopes to address inequality in healthcare and education. His proposals provide a positive outlook for those in poverty or at risk of being impoverished.
  4. The poverty level in Lithuania has been a complicated measure over the years. It is difficult to differentiate between poverty and inequality and between urban and rural. Eurostat concluded that 22.9% of Lithuanians are at risk of poverty. This means that their disposable income is less than 60% of the national average, after taxes. To explain Eurostat’s measure, Romas Lazutka, an economics professor at Vilnius University, stated that, “There is a controversy in Lithuania. Some say such data is unacceptable, nonsense because the poverty figures did not fall even though people’s incomes grew, wages almost doubled and pensions rose.” Lazutka asserts that the calculation represents the relative poverty threshold, meaning a measure of social participation (not survival).
  5. The European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) comprises 253 food banks in 21 countries, including Lithuania. The organization’s goal is to reduce food waste and fight hunger. In 2012, Maisto Banks, an organization under FEBA, provided more than 6.6 million meals. Another organization, the Lithuanian Red Cross, also seeks to help those facing poverty. When discussing the Red Cross’s campaign in 2003, Virginia Sereikaite, the Lithuanian Red Cross Youth Director, stated the need to “spread the word on poverty among the population for the first time. Children at schools learned humanitarian ethics with the Red Cross. This year many more of us came out onto the streets and the message was already familiar to people. It provided us with a better foundation for fundraising this year.” The funds went toward food and distribution to schools, social institutions, hospitals and soup kitchens.

Elevating the Quality of Life

Although hunger in Lithuania is a serious issue, the cooperation between the government, organizations and the people has improved people’s access to food. Lithuania’s new outlook on addressing poverty will ensure that more people’s needs are met. The Lithuanian president not only seeks to provide healthcare and education, but a more elevated quality of life.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Homelessness in Lithuania
Lithuania has experienced many issues with poverty and an increase in homelessness since its independence in the early 1990s. Its independence quickly led to high unemployment, low wages, poor state support in security housing, gaps in social housing provisions and an underdeveloped social services sector. This eventually resulted in a surge in homelessness in Lithuania.

Despite the overall increase in homelessness, Statistics Lithuania reported over 4,000 homeless people in 2017. While significant, the 4,000 homeless people in 2017 is actually a reduction since 2012 when reports determined that there were about 4,957 homeless people in Lithuania. The Lithuanian government has put some social policies in place in the case of unemployment; people who register with employment services can receive benefits while also using provided resources to look for another job.

With these policies, Lithuania has experienced a drop in unemployment from over 17% in 2010 to 6.35% in 2019. The Lithuanian government has stepped in over the past few years in response to the homelessness crisis and implemented provisions that promised public housing and services to those in need of assistance. The following key points will explain how Lithuania is combating the crisis and the challenges it is facing.

How Lithuania is Combating the Homelessness Crisis

According to the European Social Policy Network, the Lithuanian government put legislation and policies in place to help people experiencing homelessness:

  1. Shelters and crisis centers for homeless people: There are provisions for shelter in two forms: short-term temporary housing and crisis centers. Short-term temporary housing is for homeless people and people with addictions or other critical situations that threaten a person’s health or life. Services there include information, medication and representation, access to basic facilities for personal hygiene and access to health care. The duration of these services can last up to three nights. Crisis centers are for homeless people and victims of violence. Services include social and psychological support, employment consulting, skill-building, access to healthcare and more. Crisis center services aim to restore independent living and social connections and to help people reintegrate into society. The duration of these services may last up to six months and can receive an extension. There are also day centers for the homeless. These facilities allow people a safe place to stay during the day, to make food, attend courses and receive other social services.
  2. A brief history of social housing in Lithuania: Prior to Lithuania’s independence, the Soviet Union enacted a mass construction of social housing. Students, workers and young people leaving foster homes were the main demographic of people using this housing. The Lithuanian government dismantled public housing and allowed citizens to restore their property in the form of real estate after gaining its independence. Mass privatization eventually led to a surge in housing prices. As a result, vulnerable groups unable to afford housing returned to the streets.
  3. Ex-convicts received a chance to live independently: Ex-convicts received counseling and services aimed at preparing them for independent living. The ex-convicts would often receive access to these services toward the end of their sentences. There are no statistics on exactly how many ex-convicts are homeless, but the number of ex-convicts in homeless shelters has gone down in recent years.
  4. Larger cities with the highest rates of homelessness have their own policies in battling homelessness:  In the city of Vilnius, the municipality has a program that establishes transitional supported accommodation for people moving from homeless shelters to independent living. Accommodations have the support of social workers to manage finances and debt. They also offer counseling services to help people adjust.
  5. Recent legislation allows municipalities to provide housing for those in need:  Effective January 2019, an amendment allowed municipalities to rent housing from private or legal persons and then sublet it to people in need of housing support. This was in response to the issue of people illegally renting houses which prevented people from receiving rent assistance. This amendment addressed the stigma associated with poor and homeless people in the rental market.

The Challenges Lithuania Faces in the Fight Against Homelessness

The current programs and policies show the progress Lithuania has made since its independence. However, the country still faces challenges in its fight against homelessness:

  1. The number of evictions from social housing is increasing: The Lithuanian government made provisions for financial compensation to help with the cost of utilities for low-income citizens. Municipalities can also provide debt relief to recipients of social assistance. During the coronavirus pandemic, financial assistance increased and Lithuania facilitated new conditions for obtaining assistance. Despite this, evictions increased and counseling for debt relief became nonexistent.
  2. There is low-level reliability of funding for social protection for housing: Financing social housing in Lithuania has increased over the past decade but it has been low in comparison to the rest of the E.U. In 2016, the expenditure on social housing in purchasing power standards in the E.U. was about €54 per inhabitant whereas Lithuania’s expenditure was about €12 per inhabitant. The Ministry of Social Security and Labor planned to allocate over €3 million in housing support for 2019.
  3. The duration of stay in shelters is insufficient: Staying at a shelter for three nights does not solve the complex problems of homeless people. In many cases, once a person leaves the shelter they receive no further support and return to the streets.
  4. Social housing is difficult to obtain: It can take people anywhere from three to 12 years to receive social housing depending on the municipality. In 2014, the number of persons and families waiting for social housing was about 32,000. The waiting list decreased to approximately 10,500 in 2017. This was due to revisions on the waiting list and the enforcement of duty to declare assets and income.

Lithuania’s Ministry of Social Security and Labor has put into effect policies to help decrease the wait times for social housing. In 2024, wait times for social housing could decrease to five years. Meanwhile, in 2026, expectations determine that the wait times could decrease to about three years. If municipalities do not provide social housing by the deadline, they must compensate part of the rent to families in their current housing while they wait for social housing.

The policies the Lithuanian government has put in place have helped many homeless people get back on their feet. However, it is clear that Lithuania has a long way to go to resolve the issue of homelessness.

– Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lithuania
With strong connections to the Nordic countries of Northern Europe and the European Union, the Republic of Lithuania is located at the shores of the Baltic Seas in Europe. The nation has an intriguing history: while maintaining independence since 1990, Lithuania has also been occupied by foreign powers for many years out of the last two centuries.

Lithuania has an extremely high quality of life under a stable democratic system. This may be connected to continental trade through the E.U.’s free movement agreement and global security through N.A.T.O membership. Despite experiencing stability and growth, life expectancy in Lithuania has seen several fluctuations; even after a decade of continuous growth, it remains below average for the area. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Lithuania.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lithuania

  1. The current life expectancy in Lithuania is 74.6 years. Compared to other European Union nations, who average at 84 years, life expectancy in Lithuania is nearly a decade shorter. The nation also remains below the average of its immediate neighbors in Central Europe and the rest of the Baltics, who have a life expectancy of 77 years. Further, Lithuania lands just above the world average of 72 years.
  2. Life expectancy in Lithuania has had a chaotic trend over the last 70 years. In the 1990s, economic fallout and loss of life caused by riots and chaos during the independence movement led to a low life expectancy rate of 68.5 years in 1994. Since then, however, life expectancy growth rates have more or less stabilized. Lithuanian life expectancy currently shows little sign that the upward trend will change for the worse.
  3. The population of Lithuania has decreased since independence. Having peaked at 3.7 million citizens in 1991, the population has steadily declined. Today, the country is inhabited by 2.79 million people, due to the country’s high death rate of 15 deaths per 1000 people, which results in a negative population growth rate of 1 percent. Furthermore, the emigration of the general populace towards Western Europe has only aided Lithuanian population loss.
  4. Life expectancy in Lithuania has increased at a slower rate than the rest of the world. Lithuanian life expectancy has increased by 8.35 percent from 1986 to 2017. Comparatively, the rest of the world’s life expectancy average has increased by 25.1 percent. Despite the human development index ranking of 34th in the world for development, it is possible high suicide rates in Lithuania substantially influence life expectancy. Unfortunately, the nation has the highest suicide rate in the world at an average of 26 suicides per 100,000 people.
  5. High Lithuanian suicide rates have gained national attention. Having such high suicide rates is clearly a major contributor to the nation’s lowered life expectancies and high death rate. Certain areas of the country are reaching rates of 71.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Subsequently, this has been the focus of intense national efforts. The government has been pursuing support through organizations such as the National Suicide Prevention Strategy; additionally, N.G.O. ‘s like the World Health Organization has supported Lithuania in suicide reduction efforts. As a result, suicide rates have reduced by nearly 15 percent between 2010 to 2016.
  6. Gender disparity is still relevant to suicide rates in Lithuania. On average, men typically live to be 69.2 years while women live to be 79.7 years. Social conditions play a role in this, as men are more heavily affected by the patriarchal norms that drive them into more dangerous work environments. As a result of the intense stress, the suicide rate in men is at heights far above the rate for women.
  7. Lithuanian suicide rates are the result of a complex series of social conditions. As one of the external driving factors behind lowered life expectancy in Lithuania, suicide rates are key as it is affecting all strata of society in the nation. There are various factors besides gender disparity that influences the inclination to commit suicide. One factor is extremely high alcohol consumption, where one in three men report high alcohol intake. Additionally, Lithuania has poor mental health facilities, creating an environment where it is difficult to seek adequate help. Finally, the legacy of historical suicide ideation plays a part in this figure as well.
  8. Biological causes are also a key part of life expectancy in Lithuania. The most considerable influence on life expectancy from biological causes is cardiovascular disease. Thirty-four percent of all deaths in 2017 were due to cardiovascular disease, which is linked to the high rates of obesity in the country. Above 60 percent of the adult population of Lithuania is overweight; obesity is directly linked to poor cardiovascular health and a higher risk of stroke, which is the second-highest cause of death in Lithuania.
  9. Unhealthy diets and low physical activity levels are the primary causes of obesity in Lithuania. The obesity problem affecting life expectancy in Lithuania is the result of a number of factors, crucial amongst them being low rates of physical exercise and unhealthy diets. Only 10.1 percent of the population reported committing to minimal exercise in 2010. Adjunctly, Lithuania’s diet surveys reveal that upwards of 13.2 percent of caloric intake comes from saturated fats; Medline Plus states that saturated fat intake should be less than 10 percent for a healthy diet. However, the government continues efforts to tackle obesity by encouraging exercise among adults and implementing food and drug protocols to reduce unhealthy food consumption.
  10. Health spending in the country is amongst the lowest in the European Union. Public health spending is currently at 6.5 percent of the GDP and remains the sixth-lowest in the European Union. At double the E.U. average, 32 percent of all health spending is privately funded, mostly coming from pharmaceutical expenditures. This means that citizens are forced to spend personal funds on acquiring medication that is often quite expensive. Although, spending has increased from 5.6 percent of GDP in 2005 to 6.5 percent in 2015. Despite this gradual increase, greater strides are necessary for the health system to match the rest of the E.U. and begin increasing overall life expectancy in Lithuania.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Lithuania outline that despite its tremendous human development index and growing economy, the general health and overall lifespan of the nation’s population are quite poor. Further, the issue is not being addressed as effectively as it could be. Life expectancy in Lithuania could be improved by improved government programming and initiatives. Specifically, the implementation of effective mental health systems would greatly impact public health. Another solution would be to execute physical preventative care, such as exercise infrastructure, to increase public health.

Neil Singh
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Lithuania
Current political changes in Lithuania have brought many people hope over the current concerns of increases in immigration, income inequality and poverty in the country. The newly elected President, Gitanas Nauseda, has vowed to touch on these issues and tackle poverty in Lithuania. In 2018, around 650,000 people (22.9%) of Lithuanians lived below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold. The poverty line for a family comprising two adults and children was 307 euros a month per capita or 644 euros a month.

Furthermore, 17.3% of city residents earned disposable income below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold in 2018. This percentage stood at 34.4% for rural residents. The year 2019 has shown no improvements so far. In fact, the at-risk-of-poverty threshold increased by one percentage point making it the highest among the Baltic states.

Research has shown that inequality of income is hampering the development of society and the state. Although Lithuania has made remarkable progress during the independence period and is one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe, the income inequality in the country is currently one of the largest in the European Union. In 2016, the income of the richest 20% and poorest 20% in Lithuania varied seven times and has not improved.

The Main Challenges of Poverty

  1. Barriers to the Minimum Income: In Lithuania, people in need of social support often face a lot of bureaucratic barriers which greatly complicates their receipt of assistance. Moreover, the prevalence of stereotypes and the stigmatization of beneficiaries causes them to refuse to apply for the minimum income. In 2017, about 2.7% of the country’s population received minimum income and this number is decreasing.
  2. Debts: Debts are also a primary cause of why many Lithuanians are living in poverty. According to the Ministry of Justice, in October 2017, 292,612 people had debts that passed to bailiffs. Almost 10% of the total population of Lithuania is in debt. For a long time, the country could deduct up to 50% of a person’s minimum wage and 70% of the amount exceeding the minimum wage. As a result, people experiencing poverty are less likely to seek legal employment, which helps deepen the poverty trap. Also, even if they did work, they would be unable to retain a sufficient amount of income to live on. In almost 60% of the cases, they owe debts to the state, while in 37% of cases, they owe to private companies and in three percent of the cases, they owe other individuals. As a result, Lithuanians who are in debt often fall into the social assistance system, work illegally or seek help from their relatives.
  3. Education: The report of the National Audit Office states that the results of the pupils in smaller schools, most often in rural areas, are lower in Lithuania as well as the European Union. Specifically, 30% of the audited schools had joint classes. Furthermore, around 8% of children are unschooled, and Lithuania does not guarantee children’s right to education.
  4. Energy Poverty: In Lithuania, the law does not precisely define the concept of energy poverty. However, 29% of Lithuanian residents face difficulties in paying their heating bills. In 2016, 18% reported living in housing that dampness, draughts and leaks affected. These numbers are among the worst across the EU and show that many suffer from energy poverty in Lithuania.
  5. In-Work Poverty: Finally, the in-work poverty rate in Lithuania varies every year and is similar to the EU average. In 2017, 8.5% of persons were at risk of poverty. However, it is important to note that this indicator may be low partly because the average income of the employed is low. It is fairly easy to find a job for minimum wage in Lithuania, however, a minimum wage paying job in Lithuania is not enough to live.

The New President and His Plans

On May 26, 2019, economist Gitanas Nauseda earned 65.8% of the vote in the second round of elections in Lithuania on May 26, 2019. He took office on July 12, 2019, after President Dalia Grybauskaite’s second five-year term came to an end.

Many believe that newly elected President Gitanas Nauseda, a specialist in the field of banking and economic analysis, owes his victory to his emphasis on social issues, including tackling poverty. He also announced that he would increase the protective role of the welfare state and that the president’s office would supervise the introduction of controversial reforms to education and health care.

Although Lithuanian presidents do not directly craft economic policy, Nauseda plans to seek cross-party deals to bridge the gap between the rich and poor and decrease regional differences. “We will not have a welfare state if we care only about ourselves while social inequality increases,” stated Nauseda in parliament after taking the oath of office.

The new president also aims to increase cooperation with the Baltic area. He is initiating frequent meetings with the three Baltic states’ leaders. Meanwhile, Nauseda has indicated that he will work towards stronger relationships with both the EU and the U.S., and improve defense in Lithuania.

Hope for the Future

While President Gitanas Nauseda has certainly made promising plans for the future of Lithuania, other associations, such as the European Anti-Poverty Network Lithuania (EAPN Lithuania), are also working to fight poverty in Lithuania. EAPN Lithuania emerged in 2006 and works to strengthen the institutional capacities of Lithuanian non-governmental organizations and encourage their cooperation with national and local governmental institutions to reduce poverty and social exclusion in Lithuania. The association comprises 42 anti-poverty organizations working to reduce social exclusion throughout Lithuania.

Furthermore, UNICEF’s country program in Lithuania has made progress in decreasing child poverty and increasing children’s rights. Lithuania declared 2004 the year of children’s health and since then increased attention and resources to children-focused national health services and programs. Moreover, UNICEF has helped strengthen the effectiveness of the National Public Health Service and lent technical support to the creation of a national database of young people’s health indicators.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Lithuania
Lithuania is a country of the rich history that dates as back as in the 1200s. It is home to lush forests, majestic glacial valleys and pristine rivers that flow from mainland Europe to the Baltic Sea. While the country still lags behind its fellow EU members economically, in the decade and a half since the country entered the European Union Lithuania has made a great stride in improving the quality of life for its citizens. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Lithuania will illustrate a place of progress and growth in the country and, most importantly, reasons for optimism.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Lithuania

  1. The future looks bright for the country. Surveys show that 63 percent of Lithuanians are optimistic about their own future, and 69 percent are confident about their children’s or grandchildren’s future. While most responders still found it difficult to make ends meet, they were more confident that they could do so than they were in years prior.
  2. Unemployment has decreased. In 2010, the effects of recession could be seen in the country as unemployment reached almost 18 percent. With improvements to the economy that number has almost been cut in half, as the unemployment rate was around 9.2 percent in 2017.
  3. More people feel in control of their lives in the country. While many people are still ambivalent, since 2011, the number of Lithuanians that see themselves as in-charge of their lives has grown. As of 2016, 28 percent strongly believe they “are free to decide how they live.”
  4. GDP per capita has almost doubled. Over the past 12 years, the country’s economy has grown significantly, from $7,800 to $14,380 and this has significantly shifted the standard of living in the country.
  5. The economy is shifting. Now growing towards a service economy, like many other developed countries, fewer and fewer people are earning a living in the agricultural and industrial sectors. With an increase in service work, more Lithuanians can choose to earn a living in a safer, more comfortable occupations.
  6. Inequality is increasing. Lithuania’s GINI Index, the extent to which the distribution of income within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution, stands at 37,  somewhat unequal, the same as its 2004 rating. For many years, inequality was on the decline, bottoming out at 32.5. Unfortunately, recent trends show inequality on the rise “washing away” progress, a cycle that has happened before.
  7. Hunger is not a major concern. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a measure of hunger that charts undernourishment and waste around the world. Lithuania has a low level of hunger and is one of 15 countries with a GHI score of less than 5. While not prevalent, stunted growth (due to hunger) affects 6 percent of Lithuanian children.
  8. Anemia is still a problem. Characterized by fatigue, weakness and dizziness, this iron deficiency affects almost 25 percent of Lithuanian women, making it a top health issue for the country.
  9. Doctors are more available than ever. Around 20 years ago, the health care system was very poorly organized and largely misunderstood. With a weak referral system, most patients would immediately visit a specialist for routine and often unrelated problems. Recent reforms have improved patient understanding of their own needs and improved the role of general physicians in medicine, resulting in a 45 percent increase in doctor availability nationwide.
  10. Infant mortality is dropping. As part of the overall improvements in health care services, virtually all childbirths are attended to by a skilled physician. Since 2005, the infant mortality rate has dropped by 43 percent.

While Lithuania may never reach the same standard of living as more developed Western Europe countries, the country has many things to look forward to. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Lithuania show that people in the country are optimistic about their outlook and they have a lot of reasons to be.

– John Glade
Photo: Pixabay

Causes of Poverty in LithuaniaThough Lithuania has experienced marked progress since joining the European Union in the early 2000s, it still faces a number of challenges. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, many European countries experienced a spike in poverty. The rise in poverty in Lithuania was among the most significant, and, compared to other European nations, it has not necessarily recovered to its full capacity. Arguably the most significant causes of poverty in Lithuania are those factors that relate to inequality.

The vast inequality present throughout Lithuanian society is the result of a persistent lack of adequate social programs and fair incomes. In addition, many areas of Lithuania maintain a low standard of living, with poor access to social programs and services, quality education and non-agricultural employment opportunities. This is particularly true of rural areas that are largely disconnected from the state’s urban centers and therefore do not benefit from the prosperity of the Lithuanian government or local businesses. Improving infrastructure to connect rural areas to urban centers would supply additional opportunities to those residing outside the city rather than forcing them to pursue only opportunities in their immediate vicinity. To do so would eliminate one of the main causes of inequality and therefore chip away at the causes of poverty in Lithuania as well.

Within Europe, more equal societies typically have the lowest rates of poverty. These are the states that prioritize social protections and mandate an adequate income in order to support a decent living, whereas others neglect disadvantaged populations in favor of other kinds of spending. Thus, one of the main causes of poverty in Lithuania is also one of the main causes of inequality: lack of adequate government assistance and social protections. For example, Lithuanian pensioners often do not receive enough to live on and thus become dependent on their families, placing an additional burden on household incomes that are already low. A more equitable allocation of government spending and redistribution of government services would serve to provide poorer and more vulnerable populations the resources they need to rise out of poverty.

By national standards, nearly 30 percent of Lithuania’s population faces poverty and social exclusion, one of the highest rates among members of the European Union. A comparable portion of the population is considered at risk of poverty. These facts and the lack of opportunities and government assistance available to Lithuanians have driven Lithuanians out of the country in search of better employment, despite the growth of the Lithuanian economy. In 2016, 50,333 Lithuanians left the country, 5,800 more than in 2015 and 13,172 more than in 2014. Should this pattern persist, economic growth in Lithuania will eventually slow, resulting in higher rates of poverty and inequality. In addition, those leaving are likely to be skilled workers, which means that Lithuania could also soon face a brain-drain, deepening the economic downturn that could occur.

While the causes of poverty in Lithuania are relatively simple to identify, their implications for the future are complicated as the country moves forward. In order to stop the emigration that would inevitably worsen Lithuania’s poverty rate, there must be a shift toward more equitable social programs and an effort to improve the access of rural communities to urban centers, therefore exposing them to education and employment opportunities necessary to their success. Should these issues be addressed, it is likely that Lithuania’s recent prosperity will continue.

Alena Zafonte

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in LithuaniaThe Republic of Lithuania is located west of Russia along the Baltic Sea. 3.3 million people live in this 65,300 square km country. Historic changes have taken place in just one generation.

Lithuania had been occupied by Russia since 1940, but regained its independence in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Thirteen years later, in 2004, Lithuania joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the EU (European Union).

This country has seen a lot of political change in the past 25 years. A new constitution in 1992 presented a new form of government for Lithuania, including a presidency.

However, despite advancements, there are still problems with human rights in Lithuania. The government and people of this Baltic country are working hard to improve human rights, but there are still four notable areas of concern.

1. Children’s welfare
The 2016 Human Rights Report on Lithuania stated that “despite a multi-year effort to combat violence against children, many problems continued.” The Council of Europe Commissioner of Human Services, Nils Muižnieks, plans on reducing child abuse and harm in Lithuania by “implementing the law banning all forms of violence against children through a coordinated strategy and effective and independent monitoring.”

One area that can be improved is the country’s child hotline. It was reported that in the first eight months of 2015, the hotline received over 421,000 calls but was only able to respond to 192. This lack of resources and funding is a serious issue that results in injuries to and sometimes deaths of children.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the number of institutionalized and displaced children in Lithuania. There are close to 100 orphanages in the country, which house about 4,000 orphans as of 2015. It is an important goal for Lithuanian government officials and NGOs to improve the orphanage system, because many institutionalized children’s issues stem from their time without a family in these temporary homes.

2. Domestic violence
According to the 2016 Human Rights report, in Lithuania, “rape and domestic violence are criminal offenses” and are dealt with according to the degree of harm done to the victim.

Domestic violence is one of the biggest human rights issues in Lithuania. Although there have been efforts to stop it, violence still continues. “In the first eight months of the year, police received 33,453 domestic violence calls and started 6,718 pretrial investigations, including 24 for murder.”

Compared to the United States’ 20,000 calls a day for rape or domestic violence, Lithuania’s numbers may not seem substantial. However, when people are being harmed, any number is significant and needs to be addressed.

3. Discrimination against minorities
Human rights in Lithuania in regard to discrimination against minorities are a very prevalent issue. Whether it is a mentally disabled person or a Jewish person, discrimination occurs against various minority groups in Lithuania.

People with disabilities are among the groups that face the worst discrimination in Lithuania. Some rights that have been known to be unequal for disabled people include “inaccessibility, forced hospitalization, human rights violations in closed institutions and psychiatric wards, restrictions on the right to vote and an inadequate mental health system, which remained among the least reformed areas in the health sector.”

Jews also have a history of discrimination in Lithuania. Recent research has shown that between January and April of 2016, 90 Jewish people who applied for passports were rejected, compared to only 20 non-Jewish applicants rejected.

However, like most human rights issues in Lithuania, the government is working to improve the situation. About $14.3 million was put aside between 2013 and 2019 to be spent by the Department of Affairs of the Disabled.

4. Inhumane treatment of prisoners
Conditions in some prisons and detention facilities remain sub-standard. There have been credible allegations of inadequate access to hygiene products, poor sanitary conditions such as filthy blankets and mattresses, poor food and inferior medical care.

Some improvements have been made, though. “Between January and September, the government spent approximately 364,000 euros ($400,000) on the renovation of seven prison facilities.” With more aid and support, these prisons and detention centers can become healthy and safe places.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in LithuaniaLithuania is a small European country located in the south of the Baltic States. Formerly a member of the Soviet Bloc, it has quickly modernized since the last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. The economy was restructured from communism to capitalism and has spent the past 25 years becoming a modern state in every sense. One of the keys to the rapid development of the country has been the water quality in Lithuania, which has been a focus of the government and society in the years since it began rebuilding.

Water quality in Lithuania is monitored by three distinct sectors of government. The Ministry of Health controls and legislates all indoor water, including that used for drinking and bathing. This is supplemented by the State Food and Veterinary Service, which specifically monitors and controls drinking water. The water supply, including groundwater resources and wastewater treatment, is legislated and focused upon by the Ministry of Environment.

This three-pronged approach to water governance has worked remarkably well over the course of Lithuania’s history. From 2003 to 2012, the number of cubic meters of water treated up to established sanitation norms doubled from 85 million cubic meters to 170 million cubic meters, while water treated either ineffectively or not at all has dropped from nearly 70 million cubic meters to less than five over the same period.

Though the standard of water quality in Lithuania is already high, the country has passed legislation to continue raising it. From 2016 to 2021, the Lithuanian government has committed to establishing systems for flood monitoring and management in four of their most important river basins. The government will also comply with the Baltic Sea Action Plan to keep the Baltic Sea environmentally sound by 2020 by reducing pollutants and conserving the biodiversity of the Lithuanian coast.

The commitment to water quality in Lithuania has contributed significantly to the country’s rapid economic maturation and looks to continue to do so. With a constant eye to the future, the three sectors of government responsible for keeping the water supply safe and viable have reduced disposed waste water and increased its recycling since 2012, and the economy has stayed strong, weathering storms of uncertainty throughout Europe. The Lithuanian government’s dedication to water quality is one to be both admired and emulated, as it has led to higher quality of life for the country’s people.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Since August 2015, more than one million refugees have entered the EU, many of them fleeing conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Under block rules, refugees faced relocation to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. As these countries are among the poorest in the European Union, refugees relocated to Lithuania are fleeing elsewhere out of fear of starvation. Here are ten facts about refugees in Lithuania.

10 Facts About Refugees in Lithuania

  1. Through the EU relocation plan, refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq have been sent to live in Lithuania, a small country on the Baltic Sea, north of Poland.
  2. While Lithuania is home to less than three million people, it has a quota of about 1,100 refugees to take in within two years. So far, there have been around 90 refugees sent there. Lithuania’s interior minister Tomas Zilinskas noted that even the small number of accepted refugees in Lithuania faced opposition by half of the country’s citizens.
  3. As benefits in Lithuania are already extremely limited, a refugee family of four receives €450 a month for half a year, after which the payment halves.
  4. A whopping 72 out of 90 of those granted refugee status in Lithuania have left. Many refugees claim living in a refugee center somewhere else is better than life in the Baltic States. As Mohamed Kamel Haj Ali, a refugee sent to Lithuania said: “The ones who left for Germany said they left Syria out of fear of death from bombs, but here they feared they would die from hunger.”
  5. EU rules dictate that refugees are to be forbidden from work or to claim refuge in other member states. Some destroy their identification documents before leaving Lithuania, hoping to claim asylum in richer countries amidst Western Europe.
  6. Refugees in Lithuania struggle to find work due to an insufficient amount of jobs available. As NPR’s Corey Flintoff states, “Lithuania cannot supply enough jobs for its own citizens. Hundreds of thousands of them have had to find work in other countries. Still, Lithuania’s current government considers it an obligation to do its part to help solve the migrant crisis among its fellow EU members.”
  7. After the discovery of a new route through Lithuania’s eastern border, a gateway into Western Europe allows refugees in to enter the country. Renatas Pozela, acting commander of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service, states, “We are also seeing constant attempts to open new corridors [to Europe], mostly by Syrian and Iraqi refugees who are trying to reach Scandinavian countries.”
  8. While Lithuania joined the EU in 2004, its population has shrunk 12 percent to 2.9 million people over the past decade, as refugees and citizens alike flee in search of higher wages and better job availability.
  9. As Lithuania continues to depopulate, refugees help to sustain local businesses, such as a barber shop operated by Vilius Leveris.  Leveris finds most new staff for his barber shop in the refugee hostel. Since Leveris opened his business four years ago, he has taken on 12 employees from Turkey, Libya, Syria, Morocco and Colombia. Leveris states, “I couldn’t find anyone here. Even getting a wet shave is a completely new thing… Now, if a refugee who was a barber at home arrives in Lithuania, the refugee center calls me at once.”
  10. Ilmars Latkovskis, head of the Latvian parliament’s Citizenship, Migration, and Social Cohesion Committee, said to make staying in Lithuania feasible for refugees, it was necessary to have benefits increased “to a level which would be very unpleasant for our population, which is not that well-off.”

These were ten facts about refugees in Lithuania. It is evident from the significant number of refugees in Lithuania fleeing the country, as well as the other neighboring Baltic nations, many areas within the European Union need assistance in their efforts to aid refugees worldwide.

Kendra Richardson

Photo: Flickr