In his BBC News column, medical correspondent Fergus Walsh examines maternal health, fertility, myths surrounding contraception, and gender equality in Zambia, which “has one of the world’s fastest growing populations.” With the nation’s population expected to triple to 39 million people by 2050 and reach 100 million by 2100, “[t]he potential problem for Zambia is that the population increase is so rapid that the government may struggle to keep pace. Those under 16 need education, healthcare and homes but they are not yet contributing to the economy. Zambia can barely feed 13 million people so how will it cope in the future?” Walsh writes (10/24).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
Focus On Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic Distracted From Family Planning Efforts, U.N. Population Fund Head Says
“The international community has ‘made a mistake’ with the intensity of its focus on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and lost ground on family planning issues as a result,” Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNPF), said in an interview with the Guardian. “Osotimehin said the international community was regaining momentum in its efforts to make family planning services available to women in all countries” and “argued it was crucial for developing countries to devote a larger share of their own resources to family planning and health,” the newspaper adds.
Helen Epstein, author of “The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West and the Fight Against AIDS” examines the implications of the world’s growing population for Africa in this New York Times Opinion piece, writing, “Before this century ends, there could well be 10 billion of us, a billion more than previously expected. Nearly all of these extra billion people will be born in Africa, where women in some countries bear seven children each on average, and only one in 10 uses contraception. With mortality rates from disease falling, the population of some countries could increase eightfold in the next century.”
As the world’s population approaches seven billion — which it is expected to hit sometime in March, according to Census Bureau estimates — Joel Cohen, a mathematical biologist and the head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, examines the implications of “the enormous increases in households, cities, material consumption and waste” on health, agriculture, water security, the environment and poverty in this New York Times opinion piece. He writes, “For some in the West, the greatest challenge — because it is the least visible — is to shake off, at last, the view that large and growing numbers of people represent power and prosperity.”
Environmental health experts, scientists and government officials attending a conference in London sponsored by the British Medical Journal on Monday “issued a statement warning that climate change could not only bring a global health catastrophe but could threaten global stability and security as well, a journal release said,” UPI.com reports (10/17).
A panel hosted by the Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Council on Monday called for “a boost of aid for women in developing countries such as Somalia to help them control their fertility,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Somalia has the eighth highest birth rate in the world, and the average family has seven children,” the news agency notes, adding that “one percent of married women in Somalia have access to modern contraception, … according to data compiled by the Population Reference Bureau.”
The world’s population is expected to reach seven billion this month, which is “cause for profound global concern” and begs the question of “can we enjoy ‘sustainable development’ on a very crowded planet?” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a CNN opinion piece.
IRIN Reports On Community's Efforts To Increase Access To Contraceptives, Improve Family Planning In Madagascar
IRIN reports on one community’s efforts to increase access to contraceptives and help provide information on family planning in Madagascar. The news service highlights efforts by women in Antalaha, Madagascar, who formed an association called Femmes Interessee au Development de Antalaha (FIDA). The association uses World Bank funding to run a center that provides information and support to teenage girls, with a focus on preventing early pregnancy; broadcasts “a radio program aimed at educating women about their reproductive health and legal rights; … disseminates information on how to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)”; and works with husbands to change “negative attitudes towards family planning, [which] were preventing even those women who could get contraceptives from their local clinic from using them,” according to IRIN.
In this post in the Guardian’s “Response” column, Jenny Tonge, chair of the U.K. all-party parliamentary group on population, development and reproductive health, responds to a Guardian opinion piece published last month entitled “Welcome baby seven billion: we’ve room on Earth for you.” Tonge writes, “The article seems to miss the point that more than 200 million women who are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant are not using modern contraception,” adding, “The human toll of denying women the fundamental right to plan their families is extraordinarily high and also a significant source of population growth. If all women who want to avoid pregnancy were able to use and access family planning, the rate of population growth would slow substantially” (10/10).
The Republican-led House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would prohibit the U.S. government from providing funding to the U.N. Population Fund, an organization “that helps women and children in developing countries with reproductive health and family planning,” Agence France-Presse reports (Cassata, 10/5). “House Republicans say they are pushing the legislation because the fund, known as the UNFPA, is complicit in China’s controversial one-child policy, which enforces abortion and sterilization,” the Huffington Post writes (10/5).