The pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion we’re all ig­nor­ing

The Week - - News -

“Ladies, have you heard the news?” croons the singer to the women sit­ting be­neath the tree in an iso­lated vil­lage in Benin. “You can take a pill every day.” The singer and his drum­mers have just dis­em­barked from “the con­tra­cep­tion boat”, said Geoffrey York in The Globe and Mail (Toronto). It is part of a na­tion­wide con­tra­cep­tion cam­paign to check Benin’s soar­ing pop­u­la­tion growth. Out­side of South­ern Africa and Kenya, less than 30% of women in Sub-sa­ha­ran Africa use mod­ern con­tra­cep­tion. Many haven’t even heard of it. And now the en­tire pro­gramme is be­ing put at risk, thanks to Pres­i­dent Trump.

The US used to be the big­gest donor to global fam­ily-plan­ning schemes, said al­ (Cape Town). But days af­ter tak­ing of­fice, Trump or­dered a halt to the $600m spend on fam­i­ly­plan­ning ser­vices overseas, say­ing any pro­gramme ad­vo­cat­ing abor­tion should have its fund­ing re­moved. In April, he went a step fur­ther by with­draw­ing US sup­port for the UN Pop­u­la­tion Fund. It’s a dev­as­tat­ing blow to a con­ti­nent that has to find a way to rein in ru­n­away pop­u­la­tion growth, said Africa Times. com. The lat­est UN pro­jec­tion shows Africa’s pop­u­la­tion will at least dou­ble by 2050, and rise four­fold (to 4.4 bil­lion) by the cen­tury’s end. By then, 40% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion will be African, said York, and the ef­fects will be grave: “an es­ca­lat­ing cri­sis in hunger, over­crowd­ing, eco­log­i­cal dam­age, and ris­ing mi­gra­tion pres­sures in Europe and North Amer­ica”. Far from addressing the prob­lem, Trump’s pol­icy will ag­gra­vate it: an­a­lysts say it could lead to 6.5 mil­lion un­in­tended preg­nan­cies over the next four years alone.

For Nige­ria, the com­ing baby boom is a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen, said This Day (La­gos). Its pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to nearly dou­ble in just over 30 years and sur­pass that of the US. Nige­ria will be­come the third-largest coun­try in the world, af­ter In­dia and China. How can we feed and ed­u­cate so many peo­ple, or guar­an­tee ac­cess to suf­fi­cient clean wa­ter to pre­vent mas­sive out­breaks of disease? Boko Haram and other ex­trem­ist groups al­ready press chil­dren into mili­tias. Even more idle and il­lit­er­ate chil­dren will mean big­ger, nas­tier armed fac­tions and a greater like­li­hood of con­flict. It does not have to be this way, said Africa­ If African girls got ac­cess to con­tra­cep­tives and fam­ily-plan­ning ad­vice, it would cre­ate a vir­tu­ous cir­cle. Africa could reap a “de­mo­graphic div­i­dend” – de­layed preg­nancy lead­ing to bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion and health for women, which would in turn fuel eco­nomic growth for ev­ery­one.

Spread­ing the word on con­tra­cep­tion in Uganda

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