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Zika Virus and Crisis Make Number of Births in Brazil Plunge

11/16/2017 - 11h25

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LUIZA FRANCO
FROM RIO DE JANEIRO
IN COLLABORATION WITH KLEBER NUNES, FROM RECIFE

The number of births in Brazil in 2016 fell by 5.1% in comparison with the previous year, interrupting an upward trend begun in 2010. The decline was observed in all the country's regions. The number of marriages also fell - in both homosexual and heterosexual cases - while the number of divorces rose. These are the results of the annual Statistics of Civil Registry survey disclosed on Tuesday, November 14, by the IBGE, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.

A decline in the number of births was already expected due to the fall in the fecundity rate; however, the ratio surprised surveyors. There were 2.79 million births registered - 151,000 below the figures of 2015. This year's decline was the sharpest since 2006.

One of the hypotheses put forward by the IBGE to explain this decline was the outbreak of the zika virus, which discouraged women from getting pregnant.

The hypothesis is supported by the fact that the state of Pernambuco, which had many cases of people infected with the virus, showed the biggest fall among all Brazilian states.

Between 2015 and 2016, Pernambuco was the focal point of the microcephaly epidemics caused by the zika virus - there were 2,353 formal notices and 417 cases confirmed.

It is also possible that the ongoing financial crisis might have discouraged couples to have babies. "Studies show that there is a relationship between unemployment and the number of births. People postpone having children," says Barbara Cobo, the IBGE's coordinator of population and social indicators.

The data also show that women are putting off maternity. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of women who had children after the age of 30 grew while the number of young mothers declined.

Eduardo Knapp/Folhapress
Pernambuco was the focal point of the microcephaly epidemics caused by the zika virus
Pernambuco was the focal point of the microcephaly epidemics caused by the zika virus

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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