In the 2010s, Belarus is still facing several challenges related to humanitarian issues, like the Chernobyl nuclear disaster legacy, the growing incidence of trafficking in human beings, TB and HIV incidence, and a serious demographic crisis marked by declining life expectancy, high mortality and morbidity rates, rapid population ageing and deteriorating health conditions.
Being located at the crossroads between East and West and having an essentially open border with Russia, an increasing number of Belarusians have been exposed to trafficking. Belarus is a source and a transit country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.
According to official statistics, a total of 4,835 victims of human trafficking have been identified in Belarus since 2002, 536 out of whom are minors. Trafficking in males has been under-considered; often severely exploited male migrants are overlooked as victims of trafficking (VoT), IOM in Minsk states. Belarus Red Cross anti- trafficking interventions therefore also assist men besides women and children.
HIV prevalence in Belarus continues to rise, with 100 Belarusians infected every month. At 1 November 2013, the number of people registered as HIV-positive in Belarus reached 15,412. The most severely affected age group is composed of young people between 15 and 29, who make up 57.3 per cent of all HIV-infected persons. However, the majority of new HIV cases, 29.7 per cent, are diagnosed in the age group of 40 and above. Infection through sexual intercourse has been most common of HIV transmission in Belarus for several years. However, injection drug use is also responsible for a large percentage of HIV disease (43.2 per cent).
Women make up a growing proportion of the HIV-positive population in Belarus, and the overall new infection rate continues to climb. The share of women in the total number of HIV-infected patients has reached 40 per cent. Women in Belarus are particularly vulnerable to sexual transmission of HIV because of duress and violence regarding the use of contraception and reproductive health. health. In this context, Belarus Red Cross works closely together with the authorities and other organizations to introduce gender-sensitive approaches to injection drug users and HIV-infected women.
In Belarus, the state’s social responsibility is consistently shrinking, while social and economic security risks are increasing. At the same time, the cost of living in Belarus has risen much faster than the rise in salaries. Belarus had the highest rise in consumer prices among the post-Soviet nations in both October and the first 10 ￼International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2 I Belarus 2013 Annual Report months of 2013, according to official statistical data. Consumer prices rose by 12 per cent in Belarus in January-October 2013 compared with 5.3 per cent in Russia, 3.6 per cent in Kazakhstan and Moldova, 3.5 per cent in Armenia, 3.1 per cent in Tajikistan, 2.5 per cent in Estonia, two percent in Kyrgyzstan, one percent in Azerbaijan, 0.6 per cent in Lithuania, and 0.5 per cent in Georgia.
Poverty is becoming widespread among unemployed people, the rural population, pensioners, and children in large families, families with unemployed and single parents. The number of people in need is growing and fairly large social groups are expected to be affected by lower standards of social guarantees.
The government of Belarus does not dare to carry out a full-scale pension reform, but negative demographic trends and decreased pension fund revenues are forcing the authorities to reduce social guarantees for the retired. Presidential Decree No. 389 of 2 September 2013 envisages a change to the effect that as of 1 January 2014, the right to a retirement pension by age or seniority will be granted only if Social Security Fund payments have been made for at least 10 years instead of the current limit of 5 years. In the short term, the amendments will help the state to maintain the level of pension payments acceptable for the majority at the cost of the marginalized groups, which will be excluded from the state support programmes. According to the World Bank forecast, Belarus’ pension fund deficit may occur as early as 2014 due to the growing number of aging population.
This situation also influences the functioning of the Belarus Red Cross, since the National Society has to stretch its capacities to meet the growing needs of the vulnerable population groups. Making the most out of its branch and volunteer network, the Belarus Red Cross delivers vital services to the most hard-to-reach vulnerable groups such as homeless people, injecting drug users, people living with HIV, female sex-workers, victims of trafficking, people with mental illnesses and ex-offenders.
At present, Belarus Red Cross countrywide network consists of eight regional (including Minsk City and Railway organizations), 162 district/town/railway branches and more than 8,148 primary units (grass-root organizations). With a total of 321 paid staff, including 110 visiting nurses in 51 medico-social centres, and more than 22,740 volunteers Belarus Red Cross is well prepared to effectively run the activities supported by the IFRC and other partners.