PSN address the Anglo-Ethiopia Society in London

May 22, 2009


Louise Carver, Population and Sustainability Network Communications Officer had delivered an address to the Anglo-Ethiopian Society on the impact of population growth in Ethiopia.

Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


The event

The event held by the Anglo-Ethiopian Society at the Royal Asiatic Society in London was attended by a mixed group of UK and Ethiopian colleagues, including Ethiopia Embassy representatives.

PSN address on population growth in Ethiopia

Louise's address was called Population Growth in Ethiopia, Causes, Impacts and Wider Areas of influence.  

The population of Ethiopia is projected to more than double in size before 2050. Eight million Ethiopians are estimated to be living on permanent food aid and many more live in a state of constant food insecurity. Available land holdings and arable land is compromised through exploitation of resources and poor conservation methods.

At the same time fertility remains high and access to sexual and reproductive health services including family planning limited. Unique challenges in providing these services are presented by the geographically difficult environment, however conservation projects that have incorporated voluntary family planning services have recieved positive uptake.

Read the presentation

PSN offers expert opinion at Commonwealth Health Ministers Forum

May 19, 2009


Population and Sustainability Network coordinator Karen Newman addressed Commonwealth Health Ministers at a meeting in Geneva exploring the interface between health and climate change.

Credit: WHO/P. Virot  


The Population and Sustainability Network provided an expert session that addressed the ethical considerations of approaching the links between population growth and climate change at the meeting on the 17th May 2009. Other topics included the relationship between rapid population growth in the Least Developed Countries and adaptation to climate change.

Building upon the Commonwealth Health secretariat’s ongoing work on health and climate change, the meeting provided an opportunity for delegations from Commonwealth countries to share their experiences of the issue and discuss policy and technical solutions and cooperation.

PSN’s presentation on the ethical aspects of linking population with climate change is available here.

PSN contributes to APPG maternal morbidity hearings

December 9, 2008


PSN has contributed to parliamentary hearings on maternal morbidity being undertaken by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Population, Development and Reproductive Health. 

Credit: UN Photo/Victoria Hazou


Maternal morbidity: common yet overlooked

Maternal morbidity refers to illness and injuries related to pregnancy and childbirth. While maternal morbidity leaves 10 - 20 million women and girls every year with long-term physical, psychological, social and economic problems, many conditions and complications are treatable and preventable.

For this reason, in July 2008 the APPG on Population, Development and Reproductive Health launched an inquiry to increase understanding of this injustice, and to promote action to address this common yet overlooked health issue.

The hearings

In September PSN and roughly fifty other individuals and organisations responded to the APPG's call for evidence and submitted written evidence to the hearings. On 8 December PSN’s Karen Newman also provided oral testimony to the hearings at Westminster.

PSN’s input to the hearings argued that the high incidence of preventable maternal morbidity in developing countries must be viewed as a violation of women’s rights, and focused on the opportunities that exist to significantly reduce maternal mortality by increasing access to voluntary family planning programmes.

UPDATE May 2009

The APPG’s report of the maternal morbidity hearings Better off Dead? has been published and is available here. 

Sex and the metacities: population growth in Mumbai and Dhaka

November 24, 2008

SOURCE: The Guardian

Cities such as Mumbai and Dhaka are referred to as metacities: cities so big that they stretch the megacity definition.


Credit: UN Photo/Liba Taylor 

Rise of the metacity

Dhaka has seen its population double in the past 15 years, Mumbai in the past 25. Both are chasing the magic 20 million mark, when they become "meta", and both have swelling slums cramming the inner city, and extending around the periphery. Over half Mumbai's population lives in slums. In some parts they say there are 50,000 people living to one square kilometre. People living this close get sick, and pregnant.
Lack of reproductive choice

Mehrunisa and Zosna, two women in their 30s living a country apart, are both expecting babies. It's Zosna's second, and Mehrunisa's fifth. Zosna, who lives in a Dhaka slum, is apprehensive about giving birth. Mehrunisa just wishes the whole thing wasn't happening. She lives in Shivaji Nagar, a slum on the outskirts of Mumbai, 12 miles and a world away from the cool marble of the mayor's residence. It's built on the city's biggest dump and crawls with flies and goats. The huts seem to grow out of the filth and trash, flapping with loose plastic and Vodafone adverts torn from walls to make roofs. Scraps of tarpaulin wave like flags in the wind. She is sanguine about her new child: "I have no choice now."

Choice is a rare commodity here. Shivaji Nagar is a socially conservative, predominantly Muslim slum, where husbands and mothers-in-law rule and an unwritten code says that women should be having children. Contraception and abortion are viewed with profound suspicion.

Nasimbee, a neighbour of Mehrunisa, lets rip. "Why should I have another child?" She's already had five and now does her family planning on the sly. It's not hard, she says, since her husband "lost his brain" to drink and drugs: "He won't find out, he can't find out." These women are conducting a covert operation, fighting their husbands, their culture, the system. And once they've battled with the family, problems await.
Obstacles to accessing health services

Mehrunisa has stomach pains and wants to get an ultrasound, but can't afford it. Even if she could, the machine in the municipal hospital has been broken for years. Anita Shenoy, a tired-eyed doctor at the single public clinic that serves the 600,000-strong slum admits they struggle to meet demand: "There is a big queue here in the morning ... people can't wait." Instead they go to private clinics but these, she adds, are often bogus — fake doctors with made-up qualifications trying to make a quick buck by selling sham drugs.

Dhaka slums

A thousand miles north, the Dhaka slum rises out of water, not rubbish. Shacks are built on bamboo stilts, and black streams froth with pollution beneath. The local ward commissioner Anhaj Mahmud has a mantra for what's happening on his patch: "Population and corruption, corruption and population." His brother Mohammed, a wealthy property developer, is more specific: "Me? I have one son, one daughter. Look over there, they have six ..." But Zosna and her neighbours have a different take: "We all know that two children is a happy family." After two, they have an injection or go on the pill. Their mothers, they say, had five or six children. Not them. These women are lucky though — they live within reach of a Marie Stopes clinic that doles out contraception and advice.

Everyone agrees with the ward commissioner on one thing. Corruption is everywhere, from the party leaders banged up on corruption charges, to the forestry department official who was busted with wodges of cash stuffed in his pillowcases. Department for International Development health adviser Fran McConville describes the country as a "paradox". Bangladesh has made extraordinary social progress, especially in health. But this is thanks to what she describes as a "phenomenally strong NGO community": in other words, despite the government, not because of it. It's a picture the director general of family planning seems happy to endorse.

She says the government has a "lack of manpower" in the slums and that it's up to the NGOs.

Masudus Salehin, a Marie Stopes programme manager working in the Dhaka slums, feels the weight of this responsibility, and questions whether the government shouldn't carry more of it. "We're not able to reach all the houses ... there are lots of gaps." He knows there are still women who have no idea how much easier they can make their lives by choosing how many children they have, and when. In Mumbai, Dr Shenoy echoes his frustration. If there could be another public clinic, if services could be made more available, it would be different.

But in the Victorian corridors of the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai, the agenda seems to be elsewhere. Dr Phatak raises his voice: "The slum dwellers aren't as poor as you think. They can easily earn 100 rupees [a little over a pound] a day." He claims they have "the easiest interface with the municipal health structure" and that the corporation's focus is not on primary healthcare and local clinics where women like Mehrunisa could get vital family planning advice, but on rural services and the hospitals in central Mumbai.

His solution for the slums is to wish them away. It's a policy of repulsion. "We don't give them facilities. We make it difficult for them to live here. But we can't remove them and throw them away because our country today allows people from anywhere to go anywhere so it is very difficult to uproot these people." He looks almost wistful.

Awaiting prosperity and recognition

Mehrunisa does not want to be uprooted. This is home, dump and all. And the slums will never magically vanish; Mumbai is a magnet to people all over India. They're going to keep coming, and they're going to keep having children.

Dr Phatak hopes that Mumbai's "prosperity" will match its population. It might. But the women in the slums won't see much of it. For that to happen the corporation must first recognise them, then accept that this city is their home, and then provide them with the services they so desperately need.

PSN delivers ethical position paper at EuroNGOs conference in Lyon

October 3, 2008


PSN Co-ordinator Karen Newman recently addressed delegates at the EuroNGOs annual meeting in Lyon, France as part of a debate examining the the capacity to approach population growth issues and their interface with climate change, from a rights-based perspective. 

Credit: PSN


The event

The EuroNGOs AGM held in Lyon France was attended by over 40 NGOs, funding bodies and academics working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, development and population issues.

The conference theme was The interface between Population, Environment and Poverty Alleviation. The event therefore provided an opportunity to address the relationship between climate change and population growth, at the same time as  discussing possibilities and challenges for sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy against the background of the 1994 UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Preparing for ICPD at 15

Building upon the strategy workshop held earlier in the year, EuroNGOs used the conference agenda to extend the debate on the relationship between climate change and population growth, to other organizations and stakeholders.

The event also presented an opportunity for members to coordinate efforts  in the forthcoming year over the ICPD at 15 strategy and the planned international events to mark the date.

Considering the ethical issues

At the event PSN's Karen Newman delivered a presentation on Ethical Dimensions of Addressing Population Growth Issues

Karen's presentation is available here.