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Alarm, opportunity in population surge

Tomorrow, October 31, 2011, the world is forecast to hit seven billion people, with Uganda contributing 34 million to the tally.

The staggering contributions developing countries such as Uganda have made towards the seven-billion people has baffled many population growth analysts. According to estimations from the World’s Population Report 2011, 97% of global population growth over the next 40 years will happen in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Most of the countries where this incredible population growth will pan out are the poorest of the poor. Uganda, for one, has seen its population surge from 24 million in 2002 to 34 million to date. That number could soar to an impregnable 103.2 million by 2050, according to The State of Uganda Population Report 2011.

The report, which was launched last week, further reveals that owing to its young population, Uganda has one of the highest dependence ratios in the world. The report states that as many as 69% of the 34 million Ugandans are youths. The statistics also indicate that 25% of adolescents become pregnant at the age of 19.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There’s a school of thought that reckons Uganda’s youthful population could reap demographic dividends if it is empowered and provided with education opportunities, the report notes. It’s estimated that Uganda adds an estimated one million people to her population every year, making the country’s growth rate of 3.2% one of the world’s highest.

Experts attribute the high population growth rate to a high fertility rate, which stands at 3.9 amongst the educated and 7.8 amongst the uneducated. Compounding matters is the fact that Uganda’s population policy is suffering implementation setbacks. The 2008 policy emphasises child spacing and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services. It also allocates funding for these programmes.

However, government has shown little support for these policies. For example, government funding for contraceptives is not sufficient even to address the needs of women living in urban areas who represent only 15% of the total population. The lack of public support for family planning by national leaders is visibly noticed by the global community.

Fourteen out of 100 women can’t get family planning choices they need, according to the Population Reference Bereau’s World Population Data Sheet, while an additional 41% of married women want to postpone or avoid pregnancy but are not using an effective family planning method.

Janet Jackson, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Uganda country representative, notes that sobering thoughts should sprout from Uganda and the world’s staggering population growth.

“We need to stop and ponder on how we can make this space which we all share together a better place,” Jackson says, adding, “There is need to ensure families are planned and that every child is wanted. This will lead to families that are cared for. Individual decisions are very important in determining global population growth”.

Jackson also advises that priority be given to the women and girls because “when women are healthy and educated they trigger progress in their families, communities and nations”.

ssekika@observer.ug

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