Belarus has introduced a lot of additional measures to support families with children over the past two decades. The key task of the state, which the president outlined in his speech during the Belarusian People's Congress back in 2001, remains unchanged: taking care of the family and children.
In the new episode of the YouTube project After the Fact: Lukashenko's Decisions we will tell you what a little Belarusian can count on, what the main desire of the president is, and why Aleksandr Lukashenko was almost expelled from the Communist Party back in the day.
What is Belarus' ranking among countries with the most favorable maternity conditions?
According to a national survey, most residents of our country believe that there is nothing more important than motherhood and fatherhood. And an average Belarusian dreams of a family with two or three children. The fact that the home is important for our people is confirmed by the latest census of the population. Every third family has two kids. The number of large families has increased by almost 70% to a total of 122,000. 80% of them have three children.
Taking care of a little child seems so easy. Especially in the 21st century. But what about the protection of childhood on the scale of the state? In the list of countries with favorable conditions for the motherhood and birth of children, Belarus ranks 25th among 179 countries and the 1st among the CIS states. Other countries are ready to learn from our experience. For example, the Zimbabwe president sent his wife to study Belarusian practices. The African country is interested in buying Belarusian baby food and does not even mind building a factory according to our standards.
“You are in Belarus today on a very important visit. I am fulfilling the request of my friend President Emmerson to make the technologies Zimbabwe needs available to your country. We are ready to help you implement several projects at the request of your country and your president to build high-tech enterprises. First of all, in humanitarian affairs. The president asked me a lot for help in establishing a system in Zimbabwe similar to the Belarusian one in the area of maternity services, help for children, especially newborns, and help with resolving the problem of child nutrition. In short, women and children are the overriding priority and Emmerson told me this many times during my visit to your country,” Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Zimbabwe's First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in Minsk in April 2023.
What medical aid is available to every mother and child in Belarus?
A multilevel system designed to protect the health of mothers and babies has existed in Belarus for more than 20 years. We have one of the lowest child mortality rates under 5 years. According to this indicator, Belarus ranks fourth in the world and shares the position with Austria, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Montenegro, and Switzerland. About 5,000 pediatricians keep an eye on the health of children. Medical care is available to every child. That is, a small Belarusian cannot be refused admission because his parents do not have medical insurance. We became accustomed to the fact that we have world-class medical centers a long time ago: the republican applied science center Mother and Child, a children's oncology center, a cardiac surgery complex, and so on.
“We have clearly determined that we have to create cutting-edge centers at the republican level. Oncological centers, children's cardiological centers where we can carry out any operation on the heart of little children from the birth to the age of 18. We invited Americans. We went there, learned and created a center for ourselves. The Mother and Child center and so on. Specific operations are done over there. As I've already said, there are oncological centers. And we spent money lavishly on equipping them with cutting-edge tools. Then we adopted a program on gynecology. We took all gynecological centers, all gynecological hospitals, created a program and equipped them with the most up-to-date equipment. We bought endoscopic equipment. Other modern equipment… We did everything for women. We've opened such outlets in every oblast capital. For which they are, of course, very grateful to us. This is our duty as men. It was my personal program. We had to do it for women. And we've done it. For children, for women, for the family,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Russian reporters in 2006. He talked about the establishment of a modern medical center for providing aid to women.
Why does Lukashenko react so harshly to healthcare problems?
The president's decision was to equip healthcare institutions with the most up-to-date equipment. And also to reequip, reconstruct district children's hospitals so that kids could expect recovery in any point in the country. As he visits or opens healthcare institutions, the president always finds time to talk to small patients.
It is not a good idea to cut corners as far as health is concerned. And especially the health of small citizens. This is why the president responds harshly to any kind of carelessness. At a recent conference with medics, which journalists called “destructive”, the president, to put it mildly, reproached individual executives for the failure to observe elementary sanitary rules. This is unacceptable, especially in children's wards.
“There are still glaring problems in hospitals, polyclinics, rural health posts: walls and ceilings are falling apart, doors are askew, basic sanitary rules are not observed. Listen, any healthcare institution should be an example of sanitation. This happens even in pediatric departments that treat children! Are they not your children? Of course, they are not. But they are my children!” the president drew attention to the unsatisfactory state of some healthcare institutions during a recent government conference held to discuss pressing healthcare problems.
What relations have evolved in the family of the head of state?
As the people say, happiness loves silence. Despite the fact that a president always has to be in the spotlight, relations in Aleksandr Lukashenko's family remain behind the scenes. Sons of the Belarusian leader are very modest and never put their lives on display. As the president himself admitted, he has the warmest relationship with his children. During the most important moments the president is always with the sons, shoulder to shoulder. The head of state even joked about the main oppositionist in the family, Nikolai. The youngest son can criticize and “enlighten” the president. Especially when it comes to gadgets.
What opportunities for self-realization are available to young Belarusians?
“Life success and experience are meaningless when there is no one to pass them on” the president told Belarusians in his address to the nation and the parliament. Because he is a father himself. The president understands well what demographic problems can lead to. It might seem that everything has been done to ensure the demographic security. And at the highest level. Massive support is available for families raising children in Belarus. Large families get housing, family capital, and free meals. And it seems that everything is fine but the president has drawn attention to the problem that the society is concerned about. Do people always get the money they are supposed to get? Has the time come to take additional measures in order to protect the little and the defenseless?
“There are thousands of facts when we give money intended for children only to see their parents spend it on alcohol. If you see that a family spends these funds on alcohol and the money does not reach the children, make a decision on the spot and provide for the children! Back in the day I was almost expelled from the Communist Party, I was almost fired because I didn't give money to such mothers and fathers when I was working as an executive. I doubled these subsidies because the kolkhoz had money to spare. And I bought everything children needed for school, in winter, in spring. But their parents didn't get the subsidies and they complained to the district committee of the Communist Party about me. I was almost put in jail. But I clenched my teeth and endured. Do it! Make sure that the children, to whom we give a lot of money, get these benefits. So that these crazy alcoholic parents would not get this money if they do not deserve it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to how negligent parents spend children benefits as he delivered his address to the nation and the parliament in 2023.
Fortunately, even such negligent parents, which the president drew attention to, cannot deprive children of the opportunity to go to school. No matter if the child lives in a city or in a village, no matter what family the kid has, how much the kid's mother and father earn, what social status and faith they have, the child has the right to get high-quality education. No matter what school you go to in the capital city or a district capital, education will be the same. Educational institutions are being modernized. New schools are being built. There are a total of nearly 3,000 secondary education institutions in Belarus. These are schools, gymnasiums, lyceums. There is something to do for children even after lessons. Youth centers and hobby groups ranging from arts to sports.
“Our country is people-oriented, a lot is being done. And now it is important for the children to be able to realize their inner potential with the support of the infrastructure that the state has created. Our president has made all of it a priority. Now even very small citizens have all the opportunities to find their calling in our country and become happy and successful,” said Aleksei Talai, a public figure, Paralympian, motivational coach.
According to the public figure, in order to achieve and realize one's goals, one has to only act, put effort, and go forward instead of spending too much time with gadgets in their hands. “We also see it in our family when a child can find some kind of hobby right next to home and do what he wants to do in life,” Aleksei Talai said.
“Children are the key thing. You are the foundation, you are the future of any state. Come to school like you would come to a temple and walk this path with dignity. Because this is your foundation for the entire life. If you study well, you will gain knowledge, which means you will be competitive in this life. Which means you will be able to get a normal job and hence a normal salary. If you take it easy in school, don't complain either about the government or your parents in the future. You've come here to learn,” the head of state told students as secondary school No.35 opened in Bobruisk on 1 September 2021.
How did the Our Children campaign become a massive marathon of good deeds?
Peace, family, compassion. Belarusians have always given special meaning to these concepts. Maybe this is why the Our Children campaign was born. It all started in 1995. Back then the first national action plan for improving the position of children and for protecting their rights over a five-year period was approved by the presidential decree. Thus, a national center for adoption and a databank of orphaned children were created. Children's villages were built in Kobrin and Borovlyany. The network of rehabilitation centers was expanded, and the Our Children campaign was launched. Over the years it has become a massive charity marathon and an integral part of the social policy of the state.
“There are many good lands abroad, but, guys, you will not find a better land than our Belarus. This is why I wish you to always live on your piece of land, in your country, in your Belarus. A proud, freedom-loving and independent country. And my main wish is for all children of Belarus to be healthy, smart, kind and, most importantly, happy. As the president, I and the leadership of our state will do everything to make what I've just said come true. We did and will do everything for you to be truly educated people. So that tomorrow when you become genuine adult citizens of our country, you could properly take up the baton from the hands of the older generation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told little Belarusians during the New Year charity event Our Children in December 2006.
What does Belarus do to help children from destroyed areas of Donbass?
“There are no other people's children” is a phrase that Belarusians like to repeat. It applies not only to small citizens of our country. We help children of any nationality, whether they are children from the Middle East or Donbass. Do you remember how our people could not watch the suffering of children of migrants at the Belarus-Polish border? They were not only provided with food and a place to live, but were even provided with conditions for lessons. Rehabilitation of foreign children is periodically organized in the children's camp Zubrenok. More than 1,000 girls and boys from the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic enjoyed rehabilitation in Belarus last year alone. The humanitarian project will continue in 2023 with the president's support.
According to Aleksei Talai, his foundation has helped bring thousands of kids from various regions to Belarus for rest and recreation. “This project is very important. All Belarusians try to help as best as they can. This charity aid will continue. The most important thing is to help children from affected areas, from half-destroyed cities and villages. It is truly necessary. We see that the conflict doesn't end and that civilians keep dying over there,” Aleksei Talai said.
The public figure added that this kind of aid for children from affected regions of Donbass will continue: “We will try to bring children at least for a while to recreation camps and rehabilitation centers. We will offer them support and understanding. Other groups of children will come here in autumn,” Aleksei Talai concluded.
“More than 3,000 kids from Donbass have been able to visit Belarus. If we talk about impressions, they are impossible to convey. This is a huge achievement of the president of Belarus. On the whole, I have many friends in Belarus. For instance, Aleksei Talai and his team,” said Olga Volkova, director of the Donetsk public organization for disabled children and their parents Dolphins.
The public figure said that her children had come under fire not so long before: “I thought my heart would stop. Our life is like living on a volcano. But the opportunity that our Belarusian brothers give to us means a lot. And Aleksei [Talai] and the Belarus president, and ordinary citizens, who bring things to the charity foundation. You cannot imagine these boxes. One can say that the matter of Belarus is kindred to me,” Olga Volkova concluded.
What is a priority direction of the social policy of the Belarusian state?
Aleksei Talai and his associates dream of creating the largest charity foundation in the country. The list of good deeds includes the creation of a rehabilitation center with a swimming pool for children with disabilities, the organization of a year-round rehabilitation camp, the opening of a Paralympic youth school and much more. This is kind of a strategy for a five-year-period. Only for those who desperately need it.
“Our charity foundation, of course, also helps our Belarusian children. We hold events in all regions, in big and small cities. Children with disabilities are invited to attend them as well. There are also our famous lessons of courage, during which I actually tell children about overcoming [difficulties], about how to fight for your life and never give up. This is my fate and there is no need to invent something here. I tell them about the role of the family, about the importance of unity. It causes a huge response. We learn that something has changed in the soul of the child, that their eyes light up. It is our key task,” Aleksei Talai said.
The community leader is convinced that helping children with grave disease is as important: “We have held negotiations with the Belarusian Women's Union, with the deputy healthcare minister. We will think about how to finance and help these families, these children, so that they could receive these medications, which can be very expensive sometimes.”
Speaking officially, taking care of the young generation is a priority direction of our country's policy. To put it simply, the state does everything possible to ensure that our children grow up healthy and happy. But only in a fairy tale you can wave a magic wand to make all wishes come true. In life you have to make an effort. Everyone has. Both adults and children. But you must agree: if our children smile, then we must be doing everything right.
“I will do everything for you to live in a peaceful and calm country. Do everything on time. Do not postpone it until tomorrow. Never ever. Because tomorrow you will be plagued with new problems. And what you did not solve yesterday and today, may not be solved tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. New problems will arise. You will have to deal with new issues, new tasks. Therefore, here is my advice to you. Go forward, go forward, go forward. Do not be distracted by tertiary and even secondary issues,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told young citizens during an open lesson titled as “Historical memory - the road to the future” in September 2023.