tisdag 26 februari 2013

Greetings from Latvia - Sveicieni no Latvijas!

What would you do if your neighbours could not afford to pay their rent, their food and their clothes. Would you just ignore them and pretend as if they were not there? Or would you help them so they came back on their feets again? Latvia is a neighbour to Sweden and they are short of everything. And yet few Swedes cares about their Latvian neighbours situation...

Latvia is the country in the European Union that suffered hardest by the economic crisis that hit Europe in 2008. The previously so Optimistic Latvian Tiger Economy which was pumped up by the major Swedish banks aggressive lending lost its bite and the country went into a deep recession and workplace after workplace went into bankruptcy. According to official statistics nearly 20 percent of the population became unemployed during the crisis but unofficial sources are talking about an unemployment rate of almost 40 percent. In some rural areas in the east of Latvia the unemployment went up to almost 100 percent according to social workers in the area.

The Latvian family in the slide-show consist of a mother, her three children and their grand mother. The father of the family drowned in a fishing accident a couple of years ago. The family live in a dilapidated barn-like house in a little village on the Latvian countryside east of the capital Riga. They have no running water. The only heat comes from the wood stove which is located in the living room in the small apartment. Their economic situation are strained and they live on the margin. Even if the family didn't borrow any money from the banks they had like so many other poor families to pay the bill for other Latvians life in abundance on borrowed money that they couldn't pay back. The Latvian government had to cut every cost in order to prevent a national bankruptcy. During the economic crisis the situation on the Lativan countryside was directly comparable with the situation in the U.S during the great depression of the 30s.

The Latvian economy are slowly getting better and better. But the price for a better economy was very high. Many highly educated Latvians has moved abroad for better paid jobs. And this brain-drain can prove to be devastating for the country in a nearby future. The population in Latvia is declining 
rapidly and this is a serious social and economical problem for Latvia. In the 2000s the country has lost one seventh of its population through emigration and a negative birthrate. According to Centrālā statistikas pārvalde (CSP) 1.997 500 million people live in Latvia today. But some unofficial sources says that only 1,8 million people live in the country. In 1989 just two years before Latvia gained it's independence from the Soviet Union, the population in the country was 2,7 million people. There are no jobs, no hope and no future on the Latvian countryside and those who can move to a slightly better future in bigger cities in Latvia or abroad. Those who remain, are the elderly, the disabled and those who for various reasons do not have a chance to move.

If you want to support Latvian families in need you can make a donation. If you are a EU citizen you can make your donation via the NGO Heart to Heart and if you are a US citizen via the NGO Star of Hope

Text and photo: © Mikael Good. All Rights Reserved.

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