SOURCE: Irin News
Being an exhausted mother of 10 children by your early thirties is not unusual in rural Madagascar, but a PSN-backed movement is now underway to try and provide women with a contraceptive choice.
Balancing family planning and conservation
"I often get women in the clinic who have had eight or more children and are desperate to stop," said nurse Rebecca Hill, who has been running a family planning clinic in Andavadoaka, a remote village in southwest Madagascar, for the past six months. "They are all too pleased to have a break, and family planning can allow that to happen. But there is a huge unmet need for these facilities here, and that needs to change."
Madagascar, an island renowned for its unique biodiversity, is struggling to balance the demands of conservation with the needs of a rapidly growing population that has doubled in the last 25 years, reaching 19.6 million in 2007, according to UN figures. It is expected to hit 43.5 million by 2050.
Urgent need for family planning in rural areas
Family planning initiatives in the cities have met with some success, but there is still a significant lack of contraceptive services in rural areas. "Reaching isolated communities is the real issue," Andre Damiba, country director for Marie Stopes International (MSI), a reproductive health agency, told IRIN.
According to the government, in some parts of the country 70 percent of 16-year-old girls have already given birth to their first child. In recognition of the problem, the Ministry of Health has taken the unusual step of changing its name to include family planning.
The government has also made family planning one of the eight pillars of the Madagascar Action Plan (MAP), an ambitious economic and social development strategy recently launched by President Marc Ravalomanana.
The MAP sets two ambitious goals for family planning: reducing the average size of the Malagasy family "to improve the wellbeing of each family member, the community and the nation"; and comprehensively meeting the demand for contraceptives and family planning. It plans to do this by making contraceptives more widely available, providing educational programmes and reducing unwanted teenage pregnancies.
But the impact of the government's efforts is yet to be felt in the remote villages of southwest Madagascar. Here, isolated coastal communities - among the poorest in the country - depend on dwindling marine resources that are under direct pressure from population growth in the villages, and health care and family planning services are extremely limited.
"A woman in the village of Andavadoaka who wanted to access contraceptive services faced a 50km journey on foot to Morombe, the nearest town, or would have to pay for passage on a passing ship," explained Dr Vikram Mohan, founder of the clinic in Andavadoaka. "In cities there are good contraceptive services available; in remote areas like ours most organisations can't offer a service."
''We are raising awareness not just about women's rights, but about their economic and social interests and about how they can take control of their lives''
Efforts to ameliorate pressure on the fragile ecosystems
The Andavadoaka clinic is funded by a British charities, Blue Ventures Conservation (BVC) and Population and Sustainability Network. The link between population growth, the lack of family planning facilities and the increasing pressure on fragile natural resources prompted the organisations to establish the small clinic.
"The work being done by BVC to enable coastal communities to manage their resources sustainably ran the risk of being undermined by the mushrooming population of the community," said Mohan. "In addition, an awareness of sexually transmissible infections and a willingness to take precautions was low."
A recent UNAIDS survey in Madagascar found that only 12 percent of young men aged between 15 and 24 used a condom the last time they had sex with a casual partner. For women, the figure stood at 5 percent.
Damiba believes that intensive awareness raising campaign are needed, especially in rural areas where conservative traditions prevail. "It is only through the sensibilisation of communities that we can get behavioural change," he explained. "As long as people's behaviour doesn't change there is no way of reaching the goals laid out by the government in the Madagascar Action Plan."
For this reason, family planning is about more than just promoting the use of contraception; it is also about empowering women to make fundamental decisions that affect their health and lives. "Society here still lacks some understanding of what women's rights are," said Damiba. "We are raising awareness not just about women's rights, but about their economic and social interests and about how they can take control of their lives."
The women are learning fast. "Family planning is good for us," said Veleriny, a member of the Andavadoaka women's association. "It allows us to control when we give birth. Here some women become pregnant every year."
The government uses the media to promote contraception, and international partners have become more active. "Access to family planning facilities is improving," Lalah Rimboloson, deputy director of US-based Population Services International (PSI) in Madagascar, told IRIN. "Between 2004 and 2006 we saw a significant increase in the use of family planning. The government is encouraging organisations like PSI to increase their work."
But national statistics do not always reflect the situation in remote areas. In 2007 the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated the national fertility rate was 4.94 children per family. At the Andavadoaka clinic, nurse Hill estimates that in the remote coastal villages of the southwest it is as much as 8 to 12 children per family.
"We must have services made available permanently to those people who need them," urged Damiba. "Services must be permanent, not just available once in a while," otherwise real progress risks being limited to urban areas.
But the ambitious goals will be hard to meet. "I think that the targets of the MAP are reachable," said Rimboloson, "but not with the government's efforts alone; it has to be with all partners involved in family planning in Madagascar."
Damiba agreed. "Even a small impact in a remote community can have a ripple effect in terms of helping to spread understanding and raise awareness of the issue. Everything counts. Family planning is really needed here."
Population and Sustainability Network was pleased to join other international organisations co-sponsoring this years World Population Day event held at the Houses of Parliament on the 14th July 2008.
The event which was hosted by IPPF and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health marked World Population Day with addresses by Gillian Merron, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, and Sarah Brown, Chair of the White Ribbon Alliance.
The event was attended by organisations working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, Ministers, Parliamentarians and Peers, Ambassadors and other high level decision makers and sought to raise the profile of population growth issues and the implications for poverty alleviation efforts and international development.
Other Co-Sponsors included FPA, Action Aid , Human Rights Watch, Marie Stopes International, White Ribbon Alliance and Women and Children First.
Transcripts of speeches made at the event are on the IPPF website.
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau
The world population is projected to reach 7 billion in 2012, according to updated world population estimates and projections released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The US Census Bureau's International Data Base (IDB ) provides information on population size and growth, age and sex composition, mortality, fertility and net migration. The data are available for 226 countries and other selected geographies.
This revision to the IDB includes updated projections for 34 countries and compared to previous estimates, and indicates that the world population will be 146 million larger in 2050.
The Census Bureau's latest projections show world population growing at a slower pace during the first half of the 21st century than the latter half of the 20th century. The world population doubled from 3 billion in 1959 to 6 billion in 1999, but is projected to increase by only 50 percent between 1999 and 2040.
Global population growth, about 1.2 percent per year, is projected to decline to 0.5 percent by 2050. However, this growth will be concentrated in less-developed countries.
About 1.5 percent of the current global population is 80 or older, with more than half living in developed countries. By 2050, about 5 percent of the world's population is projected to be 80 or older, with about three in four likely to be living in less-developed countries. For developed countries, the percentage of the population 80 or older will grow to about 10 percent in 2050.
The impact of HIV and AIDS
World population estimates and projections include the impact of HIV and AIDS. Of the 34 countries updated in this revision, nine are hard hit by this pandemic (Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic).
The International Data Base offers online users a choice of ways to retrieve demographic data, including:
Population and Sustainability Network was pleased to participate at a conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Environmental Degradation and Climate Change, co-hosted by the EuroNGOs network and the European Parliamentary Forum (EPF) in Istanbul.
An international event
The event which took place on May 15th and 16th brought together 32 representatives from the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), humanitarian and environmental sectors from the EU member States, the USA and Africa in order to further understanding on the linkages between population issues, climate change and the environment.
Representatives from UNFPA, WHO, IPPF, Population Action International, DSW, World Watch Institute and Global Footprint Network were some of the international delegates at the two day event.PSN discusses ethical considerations of population issues
PSN’s new coordinator, Karen Newman, spoke in the same session as Frances Kissling, Former President and founder of Catholics for Free Choice, whilst addressing the ethical considerations implicit with SRHR and population related issues.Cross-sector partnerships are needed
PSN also led a workshop with delegates to examine the links and further discussion about the impact of the population factor on environmental degradation and the links between climate change and population.
With the combined knowledge from the SRHR and environmental sector, lively discussion ensured, and stimulated by a diverse range of presentations, concluded that there is pressing need for further partnership between the two sectors.Examining the implications
The findings also emphasised that this relationship is multifaceted and densely nuanced with a great need for further research, since while experts agree that there is a connection between population and environment, with the current paucity in empirical findings the exact relationship will remain contested territory.
Given the emerging interest in the relationship between population growth, other general demographic trends, and climate change the strategic workshop was an important initial step within Europe to encourage discussion and examine the implications for donors and policy makers.Moving Forward
PSN plans to build upon this initiative with a proposal to hold an International Forum with government specialists, academics, policy makers and NGO personnel in order to map out key target areas for research and subsequently appropriate policy responses.
Further information about the conference and the presentations is available on the EuroNGOs website.
PSN is delighted to announce that Karen Newman is taking over coordination of the Network from Catherine Budgett-Meakin from the beginning of May, 2008.
Karen worked for IPPF from 1982 till 2003, focusing in the later part of that time on policy and governance issues, with a special responsibility for sexual and reproductive health and rights. She was one of the main architects of the IPPF Charter on Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
Since 2003 she has carried out a range of consultancy work, including assignments for DFID, WHO, UNFPA, Interact Worldwide, Amnesty International and IPPF Arab World, East and South East Asia and Western Hemisphere Regions. Her breadth of experience in terms of subject area and regional knowledge will be of considerable value.
More staff developments
PSN is also delighted to announce that Louise Carver has been appointed to help develop our communications strategy. Louise has been working with us for some time but now we are able to formally consolidate the appointment.
Catherine Budgett-Meakin will continue to work actively alongside the new team.