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Geography, climate and population
Ukraine, located in Eastern Europe, has a total area of 603 550 kmē. It is bordered in the southwest by Romania and the Republic of Moldova, in the west by Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, in the northwest by Belarus, in the northeast and east by the Russian Federation, and in the south by the Black Sea, where the Crimea peninsula is located. Administratively, Ukraine is divided into 24 provinces (oblasts), 1 Autonomous Republic (Crimea) and 2 municipalities with oblast status (Kiev and Sevastopol).
The predominant lowland is interrupted by several regions of modest elevation, such as the Volyn-Podolsk plateau (also called the Podolian plateau) in the west, the Dnipro (Dnieper) ridge in the centre, and the Donets ridge in the southeast. The Carpathian mountains (with their highest peak, Hoverla, at 2 061 m above sea level) and their foothills in the southwest, together with the Crimean mountains (1 545 m above sea level) along the southern coast of the Crimean peninsula, constitute the only mountainous sections of Ukraine.
The agricultural area, which is the sum of arable land, permanent crops and permanent meadows and pasture, is estimated at 41 million ha, which is 68 percent of the total area of the country. In 2014, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 33.4 million ha, of which 97 percent (32.5 million ha) consisted of temporary crops and 3 percent (0.9 million ha) of permanent crops (Table 1).
There are four agro-climatological zones in Ukraine:
- The humid zone covers 35 percent of the country in the northwest. It is moderately warm in summer and cold in winter. The average annual precipitation is 600 mm, concentrated between May and October, but can reach 1 600 mm in the highest part of the Carpathian mountains, with to up 300 mm falling as snow. In these areas, the snow cover generally lies for 70-90 days, from early or mid-December to the end of February, but can last until April and even mid-May. Average temperatures vary between -4°C in January and 17°C in July.
- The warm zone covers 25 percent of the country and comprises the eastern and central forested steppe. The average annual precipitation is 500 mm, concentrated between February and April. Average temperatures vary between -6°C in January and 21°C in July.
- The semi-arid zone covers 25 percent of the country and comprises the so-called northern steppe (central part of the country) and the far east of the country (Donets high plain). The average annual precipitation is 450 mm, concentrated between April and October. Average temperatures vary between -6°C in January and 21°C in July.
- The arid zone in the south covers 15 percent of the country, including the Crimean peninsula. It is characterized by mild winters, with an average annual precipitation of about 360 mm, concentrated between December and May. Average temperature vary between 0°C in January and 23°C in July.
The average annual precipitation over the country is estimated at 565 mm. This figure includes snowfall, which is an important source of water, particularly in the west.
In 2015, the total population was about 45 million, of which around 31 percent was rural (Table 1). Average population density in the country is 74 inhabitants/kmē, varying from 164 inhabitants/kmē in the Donetsk oblast to 33 inhabitants/kmē in the Chernihiv oblast. The average annual population growth rate in the 2005-2015 period has been estimated at minus 0.4 percent.
In 2014, the Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Ukraine 81 among 188 countries, while the Gender Inequality Index (GII) ranks 57 among 155 countries, for which information was available. Life expectancy is 71 years and the under-five mortality is 10 per 1000 births, both progressing from 67 years and 20 per 1000 in the 1990s. With no significant distinction between boys and girls, around 97 percent of the children in 2013 are enrolled in primary education, but only 87 percent for secondary education (WB, 2015). Adult literacy is 99.7 percent in 2012 (UNDP, 2015). In 2015, 96 percent of the total population had access to improved water sources (96 and 98 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) and 96 percent of the total population had access to improved sanitation (97 and 93 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) (JMP, 2015).