Population Matters

Earth faces a century of disasters

Earth faces a century of disasters

World population needs to be stabilised quickly and high consumption in rich countries rapidly reduced to avoid ‘a downward spiral of economic and environmental ills’, warns a major report from the Royal Society. Contraception must be offered to all women who want it and consumption cut to reduce inequality, says the study published on Thursday [26 April], which was chaired by Nobel prize-winning biologist Sir John Sulston.

The assessment of humanity’s prospects in the next 100 years, which has taken 21 months to complete, argues strongly that to achieve long and healthy lives for all 9 billion people expected to be living in 2050, the twin issues of population and consumption must pushed to the top of political and economic agendas. Both issues have been largely ignored by politicians and played down by environment and development groups for 20 years, the report says. ‘The number of people living on the planet has never been higher, their levels of consumption are unprecedented and vast changes are taking place in the environment. We can choose to rebalance the use of resources to a more egalitarian pattern of consumption … or we can choose to do nothing and to drift into a downward spiral of economic and environmental ills leading to a more unequal and inhospitable future’, it says.

At today’s rate of population increase developing countries will have to build the equivalent of a city of a million people every five days from now to 2050, says the report. ‘Global population growth is inevitable for the next few decades. By 2050, it is projected that today’s population of 7 billion will have grown by 2.3 billion, the equivalent of a new China and an India.’ But the sheer number of people on earth is not as important as their inequality and how much they consume, said Jules Pretty, one of the working group of 22 who produced the report. ‘In material terms it will be necessary for most developed countries to abstain from certain sorts of consumption, such as CO2. You do not need to be consuming so much to have a long and healthy life. We cannot conceive of a world that is going to be as unequal as it is now. We must bring the 1.3 billion people living on less than a $1.25 a day out of absolute poverty. It’s critical to slow population growth in those countries which cannot keep up with services.’

Read the full article: The Guardian

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Bangladesh: Fertility decline, family planning rise

Bangladesh is the world’s most densely populated country with about 1,100 people per sq. kilometer. The country’s area is about the same as the US state of Arkansas and a bit more than Greece but is home to over 150 million people. The preliminary 2011 report [Bangladesh 2011 Demographic and Health Survey] has just been released and it shows that fertility has continued its decline to a low level. The total fertility rate (TFR) for the three-year period before the survey was 2.3 — 2.0 in urban areas and 2.5 in rural areas. […] In the survey, 76.2 percent of women with two living children said that did not wish to have any more children and an additional 5.3 percent had been sterilized and 1.3 percent said they were incapable of conceiving. 

In the survey, 61.2 percent of currently married women said that they were using some form of family planning, a level comparable to developed countries. The use of modern methods was quite high at 52.1 percent. Unlike neighboring India, where female sterilization predominates, the contraceptive pill is the most widely used modern method at 27.2 percent, followed by injectables (11.2 percent), and the male condom (5.5 percent).

Read the full article: Population Reference Bureau

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Population Matters condemns coercive sterilisation

Population Matters wholly condemns coercive family planning of any kind, and sees control of one’s own fertility choices as a basic human right, especially for women.

The BBC has reported allegations of an unacknowledged Uzbek policy of sterilising some women, either without their knowledge or by deception.  The Uzbek government has denied the allegations.  The Observer has separately reported allegations that deceptive, coercive and unsafe practices characterised some sterilisations in the Indian states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

“Sterilisation is a popular choice for people who do not wish to have any more children; but coercion and deception are plain wrong”, said PM Chair Roger Martin. “This applies equally to coercive contraception and to the far more common problem of pregnancy arising from lack of access to modern family planning.   The United Nations has rightly made universal access to reproductive health a Millennium Development Goal; and we congratulate DfID for giving priority to strictly voluntary family planning and women’s empowerment in the aid programme”.

“Slowing the growth in the world population – which the UN project as between 1.1 and 3.6 billion more people by 2050 depending on our collective actions meanwhile – is critical for hopes of sustainable development.  It directly affects climate change, biodiversity loss, and food, water and energy security.”

“The high stakes, however, make it all the more important that family planning programmes are firmly based on consent”, he concluded.  “Where coercion of any kind is alleged, we urge the responsible authorities to provide for independent investigation. These programmes are vital to the prospects of all our children; and their credibility and effectiveness depend on their remaining voluntary”.

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Population & sustainable development links complex

‘The one child family norm in China has fixed the global imagination around population to be around doing something which constricts people’s and women’s choices, rather than expands women’s possibilities to take control of their lives,’ said Karen Newman, the coordinator for the UK-based Population and Sustainability Network. But contemporary population programs are about educating people on and providing access to voluntary reproductive, sexual, and maternal health services. Newman spoke to ECSP, during the ‘Planet Under Pressure’ conference earlier this year, about family planning efforts and the connection between population dynamics and the environment.

‘You have what I would describe as a sort of kaleidoscope of complexity between climate change and population dynamics – not just growth’, said Newman, ‘but urbanization and migration’. For example, China recently overtook the United States as the world’s largest emitter of carbon, and although China has 1.3 billion people compared to the United States’ 310 million, population can hardly be credited as the most important driver for the country’s emissions. ‘How fair is it [to credit population growth] without in the same nanosecond saying, but most of the carbon that was emitted in China was to manufacture the goods that will of course be consumed in the West?’ said Newman. “It makes it more difficult to say in a sound bite that ‘OK, population and sustainable development, it’s the same conversation,’ which I believe it to be”.


‘As a result of people wanting to place a distance between those coercive family planning programs in the ‘60s and the way that we do reproductive health now … because it’s such a large package, there is a sense that … this reproductive health thing is too much, we can’t really get ahold of this,’ said Newman. ‘What I think we need to do is keep people focused on the fact that these are women’s rights,’ she said. “But we at the same time have to say ‘this is relevant if you care about sustainable development and the world’s non-renewable resources’.”

Read the full article: New Security Beat

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Uzbekistan alleged to carry out forced sterilisations

Evidence of operations under cover of caesareans as doctors claim targets set to help control population.

Two weeks after Bakhor came home with her newborn son the joy of the new baby was overshadowed by a growing suspicion that something had gone badly wrong. ‘I kept bleeding heavy black lumps, and the pain was unbearable, I thought I had a tumour,’ the 32-year-old Uzbek says. It took Bakhor four months to save up money for an ultrasound. She cries as she remembers the result. During the caesarean section, the doctor explained, she had a hysterectomy. ‘The doctor said ‘you don’t have a uterus any more’. He said: ‘What do you need it for? Two children is enough for you’,’ she says. A two-month long investigation for the BBC World Service and Radio 4 has uncovered what appears to be a systematic state-run programme in Uzbekistan to sterilise women, often against their will and without their knowledge.

Uzbek president Islam Karimov tolerates no dissent in his country and women and doctors who told their stories did so on condition of anonymity. Over secure phone lines doctors and health ministry officials told me that while first recorded cases of forced sterilisations go back to 2004, in 2009 sterilisations became a state policy. ‘All of us have a sterilization quota,’ said a gynaecologist in the capital, Tashkent. ‘My quota is four women a month. We are under a lot of pressure.’ In rural areas, doctors say, the number can be as high as eight women a week. ‘We go from house to house convincing women to have the operation,’ said a chief surgeon in a rural hospital. ‘It’s easy to talk a poor woman into it. It’s also easy to trick them,’ he admitted

Read the full article:  The Guardian

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Philippines needs family planning law: UN

Two United Nations agencies have stressed the urgent need for the Philippines to enact a reproductive health or family planning law especially to reduce its alarmingly high rates of maternal and child deaths.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) pointed out that such legislation is vital to institutionalise policies and programmes on maternal and child health. Addressing a a press conference, the two agencies said that at least 11 Filipino mothers die every day mainly due to lack of pre and post-natal care. ‘Usually these mothers do not get the proper care they rightfully deserve due to lack of information, access and financial resources,’ a UN fact sheet distributed to media said. ‘The poor,’ the document added, ‘get caught in a poverty trap as most of them marry young, decide to have more children and only get little access to reproductive health.’ In this light, Dr Soe Nyunt-u, the WHO country representative to the Philippines, noted: ‘The bill is of paramount importance for the welfare of the Filipino people.’ The bill, however, has remained stranded in the House of Representatives for the past 10 years.

The bill, sponsored  by Congressman Edcel Lagman of Albay province in the Bicol Region in Luzon, mandates the government to adopt a national policy to reduce the country’s annual population growth rate of 1.9 per cent, considered one of the highest in the world. Lagman noted the Philippines now has a total population of 95 million which makes it the 12th most populous country in the world. But with the unabated growth rate, there would be 100 million Filipinos by 2015, Lagman warned.

The bill allows the government to purchase family planning methods such as the pill and condoms for distribution particularly to poor couples who want to limit the number of their children under the principle of ‘informed choice.’ However, the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) continues to strongly oppose the bill, with some of its members threatening to expel or excommunicate Aquino for including it as among his 30 ‘priority’ measures in Congress.

Source: The Gulf Today

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Learning to love the female condom in Uganda

Nebbi, Uganda – Hundreds of women from all walks of life gathered in a school field here recently to celebrate International Women’s Day. As they marched in a parade, carrying placards with messages on the rights of women and girls, many were intrigued by a UNFPA exhibition stall that was distributing both male and female condoms to every adult who asked for them. As women queued to pick up samples of the female condom, many said they were seeing it for the first time. A UNFPA consultant, Loyce Allen Asire, demonstrated to the curious women and men how to use the device correctly.

One woman had heard about female condoms, but didn’t know how to get them. ‘I don’t even know where to buy a female condom,’ she said. ‘And if it were for sale, how much it would cost?’ she asked, grabbing a pack. Currently, the female condom (the newest version is known as FC2) is distributed at no cost in selected public and private-not-for profit health facilities in the country. It is also available for sale in some private clinics in the capital city, Kampala, but at a considerably higher price than male condoms. However, according to a recent report [UNFPA – Contraceptive Commodities for Women’s Health], only one female condom was distributed for every 13 women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa in 2010.

Read the full article: UNFPA

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Dramatic differences in childbearing by age in US, Japan, and South Korea

The very low Total Fertility Rates (TFRs), the average number of children a woman would bear in her lifetime if the birth rate of a particular year were to remain constant) in two developed countries compared with the United States illustrate just how widely childbearing patterns vary. In Japan and South Korea, childbearing below age 20 is nearly nonexistent. In the United States, however, the age-specific fertility rate is 35 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19, the highest in developed countries and rivaled only by the United Kingdom.

However, the US teen birth rate has declined since the late 1990s when it was 50. The TFR in the three countries are 1.4 (Japan in 2010), 1.2 (Korea in 2011), and 1.9 (the US in 2010). In the 20-to-24 age group, the increase in Japan is rather modest and very small in South Korea. After that, the patterns are roughly the same. Quite obviously, younger women in those two countries are avoiding childbearing in large numbers and, when they do begin having children, never come close to the two-child ‘replacement’ level. Childbearing is not simply delayed but often shunned.

Source: Population Reference Bureau (Blog 4 April 2012)

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So many mouths to feed: addressing high fertility in famine-stricken Somalia

In Dabke camp for internally displaced persons in Mogadishu, Muno Abukar shares a tent with her eight children. Fleeing the famine, the family left their home in Lower Shabelle five months ago. Since her husband passed away two years ago, Muno has had no means to support her large family. At the camp, she and her children are provided just one meal a day.

This scene, mothers with several children they are unable to care for, is common in camps for internally displaced persons throughout Mogadishu. Averaging more than six children each, women in Somalia have one of the highest fertility rates in the world. Very few women use, or have access to, modern contraceptives – the prevalence rate is around 15 per cent. Despite conflict and famine, the country’s population has nearly tripled in the past fifty years, even with the high rates of mortality: for every 1,000 live births, about 12 women die and 225 children never reach the age of 5. Dr. Nimo Abdi Hassan, a gynecologist at Mogadishu’s Madina Hospital, explained that in Somalia, ‘Giving birth here means that a woman is someone contributing to society … the more [children] you produce the more you save a nation where war has claimed millions of lives.’ Even before the conflict, children represented a form of social and economic capital. Somali society is pastoralist and large families are needed to care for herds. Having a number of surviving children also provides security for parents in old age.

Dr. Hassan believes the only way to effectively deliver family planning messages is through religion. Nearly all Somalis are Sunni Muslim, and religious leaders are deeply trusted. Some believe that limiting family size goes against the will of God, while others assert that no verse in the Quran identifies contraception as haram, or religiously prohibited. In light of the varying interpretations of family planning in the Muslim world, partnering with faith-based organizations can alleviate social (including religious) pressures associated with the practice of child spacing. Natural contraceptive methods such as withdrawal and exclusive breastfeeding are more easily accepted in Somali society. Azza Karam, senior socio-cultural development adviser for UNFPA, said ‘Family planning programmes that disregard the role of religion in shaping behaviour and attitudes in society, will have their outreach and efficiency hampered, as several studies around faith and family planning dynamics increasingly attest to’.  She added, ‘In many instances, a failure to take cultural concerns into account, can lead to misinterpretations about the purpose of family planning and the nature of provision of such services’.

Read the full article: UNFPA

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