Population growth rate a concern

Editorial

The estimated population of Papua New Guinea in 2019 is 8.78 million, which ranks 98th in the world.
This figure is part of the world population predicated to hit the 7 billion mark on Oct 31.
The clock is ticking. A world of 7 billion is both a challenge and an opportunity.
The annual growth for PNG has increased steadily from 2.2 per cent in 1980 and currently stands at 3.1 per cent.
Since 1980, the population of PNG has more than doubled from 3 million to 7.3 million in a matter of 31 years.
Papua New Guinea is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Only 18 per cent of the population in PNG live in an urban areas and we remain one of the least explored areas of the world.
The staking reality is PNG is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, 30 per cent of our population still lives below the international poverty line of about K4 day. Most still live on subsistence-based agriculture. The country has the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Pacific and meets the criteria for a generalised HIV/AIDS epidemic. The leading cause of death is malaria, which affected about 1.7 million people in 2003 alone.
Everywhere in PNG you can see the system breaking down in the face of a booming population: an overburdened public education system, inadequate public healthcare and pollution and dwindling food resources.
And this is likely to continue if PNG does not seriously take note of raising awareness on issues relating to population.
Population issue includes family planning, gender equality, child marriage, human rights, right to health, baby’s health etc.
One such opportunity should have been yesterday during the World Population Day which focused on the importance of reproductive health and how it affects overall growth and development plans and programmes.
The day seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, was established by the then-Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989.
In 1994, International Conference on Population and Development was held at Cairo where a revolutionary Programme of Action was adopted by 179 governments and called for women’s reproductive health and rights to take centre stage in global and national development efforts.
This programme basically focuses on comprehensive reproductive health care including family planning, safe pregnancy, childbirth services, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. No doubt for the advancement of the society women empowerment and reproductive health both are necessary. On World Population Day, while advocates from around the world are calling on leaders, policymakers, grassroots organisers, institutions and others to help make reproductive health and rights a reality for all, this should be an opportunity for PNG to cross check against the programme of action to see if we have met any of the goals highlighted. The population problem cannot be swept under the rug forever. The growth rate has always been a concern.
Some people will glare at the idea that population growth should be managed.
Even though people have the right to decide how many children they have and their spacing, they also have the responsibility, to have only number of children they can afford.
Policies to improve the role and status of women, such as ensuring literacy and education for girls and women must be set.
Effective population management is a major factor in economic growth and empowerment of women.
Let us be realistic, it is time for governments to develop population policies suited for our nation’s needs and conditions.

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