The Republic of Uzbekistan, in Central Asia, is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Kyrgyzstan to the northeast, Tajikistan to the southeast, Afghanistan to the south, and Turkmenistan to the southwest. A former Soviet republic, Uzbekistan is known for its mosques, mausoleums, and other sites linked to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean. Its capital is Tashkent. Though there are recognized regional languages such as Karakalpak, the official language is Uzbek. Uzbekistan’s population of 30.8 million people is 50 percent urban and 50 percent rural. Islam is the predominant religion; 92 percent of the population is Muslim. Uzbekistan is a significant producer of gold and has the largest open-pit gold mine in the world, in addition to substantial deposits of silver, strategic minerals, gas, and oil.
The country broke from the Soviet Union in 1991. As a sovereign state, Uzbekistan is a secular, unitary constitutional republic. Since independence, Uzbekistan has been slow to transform to a market economy. Its restrictive trade regime and generally interventionist policies continue to have a negative effect on the economy. The nation’s GDP declined during the first years of transition and then recovered after 1995 due to a considerable reduction of inflation and budget deficit. The economy showed robust growth, rising by 4 percent per year between 1998 and 2003; in 2011, growth rose to 9 percent. The total number of people employed also rose from 8.5 million in 1995 to 13.5 million in 2011. Despite this achievement, unemployment increased to 5.5 percent in 2019.
Uzbekistan boasts a large network of rural medical facilities. However, the healthcare system, and particularly its infrastructure, could benefit from more investment. Uzbekistan’s life expectancy has improved over time, and is roughly 72 years. The under-five mortality rate has also improved, dropping from over 62 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000, to 17 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2019. Among the most common diseases are those associated with polluted drinking water, such as typhoid, hepatitis, dysentery, and cholera. That aside, the leading causes of death are ischemic heart disease, stroke, cirrhosis, lower respiratory infections, diabetes, neonatal disorders, road injuries, chronic kidney disease, self-harm, hypertensive heart disease, and tuberculosis. Recent records show that there were 892 diet-related deaths per 100,000 people a year when reported in 2019, the highest in the world.
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