Saturday, November 07, 2015

Africa can lower its population growth

Ethiopia is among nine African countries whose rate of population growth is declining. Others are Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.

Ethiopia has seen a massive cut in its fertility rate, from an average of seven children per woman in the 1990s to 4.6 currently.

"Women stay longer in school, the standard of living is increasing so people don't want to have too many children and more importantly, family planning is becoming more popular," explains Faustin Yao, the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) representative to Ethiopia. As the quality of life improves, people tend to have fewer children. More educated women often mean fertility rates are lower.

 In Ethiopia, the availability of contraceptives has also played a big role.
"The increase in contraceptive use during 2000-2011 emerged as the single most important source for the recorded decline in TFR (Total Fertility Rate)," said a UNFPA report.
However, a quarter of all women who need contraceptives are still not able to get them. Health extension workers also regularly provide health education in the villages, including information about contraception to those who need it. The programme entails home visits by government-employed community workers who engage families on a one-on-one basis. The big leap in contraception use between 2000 and 2011 is largely attributed to health extension workers.

Experts say reducing poverty rates also leads to a decline in fertility.
"It's not the population growth that is the problem - it's the extreme poverty that is the underlying reason," says Hans Rosling, professor of international health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. "If you continue to have extreme poverty areas where women give birth to six children and the population doubles in one generation, then you'll have problems."

A case in point is Niger, the country with the highest fertility rate in the world - 7.6. It is also one of the poorest. The West African country is projected to nearly quadruple its population from about 17 million to 66 million between now and 2050. Experts warn that this trend could only spell more trouble for Nigeriens, half of whom are already without adequate food and who are often hit by drought.

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