World Population Day 2009 - “Fight Poverty: Educate Girls”

by Thilaka Ravi on  July 10, 2009 at 11:57 AM Health In Focus
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About 40 years ago world leaders declared July 11 as World Population Day, upholding the basic human right of individuals to freely and responsibly decide the number and timing of their children. Instituted in 1989 as an offshoot of the Day of Five Billion dated July 11, 1987, the United Nations earmarked World Population Day to increase world awareness of population issues. Importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health, sexual and reproductive health and human rights are some population-related issues that have a serious impact on the world's development and environment.

The theme for this year, "Fight Poverty: Educate Girls" is a serious reminder that the future of the world's well being depends on educating and empowering women. Several studies have shown that investments in health and education for women and girls are linked to increase in productivity and national income. Moreover, women are generally observed to be economic agents for productivity because they invest their earnings—however meagre, in the health and education of their children.

Current Challenges

The world is caught between the current economic downturn and poverty that is increasing in many nations. Past experiences have shown that women will be ultimately affected in the fallout—as credit markets tighten, employment opportunities drop and food prices soar the worst-hit are women who form the majority of micro credit borrowers.

Studies show that women form 70% of the world's absolute poor. Poverty is a major deterrent for access to good healthcare. Lack of reproductive health services and information adversely affects maternal and child health. For example, poor women are not likely to use contraception if they are not properly educated in the basics of family planning. Also, missing prenatal and post-natal health services can result in malformation in fetus, infant mortality and maternal disability. Studies have shown that when women miss post-partum visits, which are generally used as an opportunity to educate women on family planning, it can increase unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

World Population Day invites attention on the immediacy and importance of population related issues, with the view to formulate development plans and programs and find solutions to these issues. However critical the global financial meltdown is, nations cannot ignore funding for education—especially women's education, sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and the prevention and control of epidemics and a host of other population-related factors.

Encouraged by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), governments, NGOs, institutions and individuals from many parts of the world organize various promotional activities to celebrate the annual event and educate the general public on the importance of World Population Day. The UNFPA has laid down certain priorities to tackle population related issues in a world that is reeling under a financial crunch.

• Address the urgent need for family planning as it directly impacts cost savings in the health sector, in promoting maternal health, neonatal and child health

• Stress the need to prevent teenage pregnancy and unwanted pregnancy, which can affect women's health and lead to unsafe abortions

• Since statistics prove that maternal mortality has a negative effect on GDP, at least consider the significant economic returns brought in by investments in maternal health—even if you don't care much for womenfolk

• Advocate effective government programs for spacing and limiting of childbirth to promote better health for mothers and children

• Effective maintenance of primary health centres in remote areas, frequently supervising especially the quality of water, sanitation facilities and the quality of health services provided

• Advocate programs for youth to channelize their energy positively and make efforts to redress their unemployed situation because misguided, disgruntled youth may be led to street crime, gangsterism and illegal activities such as illicit trafficking of drugs, women and children

• Facilitate public/private partnerships in developmental programs and sensitise the need to work together for the well being of one and all

World Population Day is celebrated all over the world by business groups, community organizations and individual people in many ways. Governments and NGOs promote activities such as seminars, discussions, educational information sessions and essay and elocution competitions.

Overcrowded World

World Population is also a day to think about population-related issues in a world that is increasingly getting crowded by the day. The world population was 6.06 billion in 2000. In 2007 it was estimated to have been 6.7 billion. The US Census Bureau estimates that the world population will become 7 billion in 2012. According to the United Nations, there will be roughly 7.3 billion to 10.7 billion people living in the world by 2050. It is about time that everyone woke up to the fact that we are living in a world that is bursting at its seams and sagging with our burden. Educating girls and women to fight poverty is a right step in the direction of easing the world's burden and assuring quality life for all.

Source: Medindia
Thilaka Ravi/L

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