World Population Day is celebrated on 11 July annually to create awareness about the growing population of the world and the urgency of family planning.

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ” Sustainable Development 2030 agenda is the world’s blueprint for a better future for all on a healthy planet. On World Population Day we recognise that this mission is closely interrelated with demographic trends including population growth, ageing, migration and urbanisation”.

Population issue includes family planning, gender equality, child marriage, human rights, right to health, baby’s health etc. Therefore, World Population Day focuses on the importance of reproductive health and how it affects overall growth and development plans and programs.

UN Council every year decides the theme of World Population Day but in 2019 specific theme is not decided and calls for global attention to the unfinished business of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.

The landmark conference held twenty-five years back where 179 governments recognised that reproductive health and gender equality are essential for achieving sustainable development. To achieve these unmet goals, in November, UNFPA together with the governments of Kenya and Denmark will be convening a high-level conference in Nairobi to accelerate the efforts.

However, in 1994, International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) 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.

Research has shown that, China remains the most populous country in the world with 1.4 billion inhabitants (18.4 per cent of world population) followed by India with 1.3 billion inhabitants (17.7 per cent of world population). Together these two countries account for 2.79 billion people or 36.15 per cent of the world population. The United States (329 Million) is the third most populous country followed by Indonesia (269 million), Brazil (212 million), Pakistan (204 million), Nigeria (200 million), Bangladesh (168 million), Russia (143 million) and Mexico (132 million). Ghana has an estimated population of (30.42 million) representing (0.39%), which ranks 46th in the world population.

A demographic analysis by Pew research centre, indicates that, nearly one in every three people in the world is a Christian. Around 31 per cent of the world’s population follows Christianity. Nearly one in every four people in the world is a Muslim, accounting for 24 per cent of the world’s population. Followed by Hinduism (15 per cent), Buddhism (6.9 per cent), Folk religion (5.7 per cent), other religions (0.8 per cent) wile only 0.2 per cent of the world’s population follows Judaism. As per the same report, 16 per cent population of the world is not affiliated to any religion.

In terms of religions among the population of Ghana, 71% are Christians and 17% are Muslims. However, other people also believes in other faiths.

Therefore, the major objective behind observing World Population Day is to focus the attention on the consequences of increasing population and how it affects the overall development plans and programmes.

One of the greatest consequences of growing population, which is perhaps a great threat to our livelihood as well, is the quick depletion of natural resources.
This is dangerous as it hampers sustainable development.

On the backdrop of this, Ghana on Thursday, 11th July, 2019, joined the rest of the world to celebrate the World Population Day (WPD), in Accra at Mantse Agbonna – James town, to draw attention of the public towards the importance of population issues and the need to curb it.

In his keynote address at the event, Mr. Mohammed Nii Adjei Sowah, the Mayor of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Assembly, indicated that, indeed this year’s celebration calls for a global attention to the unfinished business of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in 1994 at Cairo in Egypt.

According to him, twenty five years down the landmark conference where 179 governments recognized that reproductive health and gender equality were essential for achieving sustainable development, there still remain some challenges on population issues which include access to sexual and reproductive health and gender equality.

He said, the global theme for this year’s celebration was “International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) at 25: The unfinished Business,” and the national theme “Reproductive Health and Gender Equality for Sustainable Development,” were adopted to create awareness on the need to expand access to these rights.

The Mayor, indicated that, the ICPD Programme of Action (POA) was a promise made to young people, with the aim of giving them hope to meeting their rights, needs and demands.

He said, “In spite of the progress that Ghana has made after twenty-five years of ICPD, maternal deaths are still high, there are many women with an unmet need for family planning and gender-based violence is still widespread. That is what we should consider as the unfinished business of the ICPD and the reasons to accelerate the promise.”

“How do we accelerate the promise?Family planning should take centre stage in the national discourse, for that is the way to go. Family planning should be freely and universally available to women just like we have made immunization service. We accelerate the promise by including family planning service in the National Health Insurance Scheme and increasing government funding for contraceptives.” He added.

He therefore called on Parliament to pass the Affirmative Action Bill into law, to ensure gender equality and women empowerment, where men will treat women with respect and give them space to participate in decision-making starting from the household level, “This should include decisions about childbearing,” He stressed.

On his part, the UNFPA Country Representative, Niyi Ojuolape, underscored the need for a stakeholder engagement to urgently discuss the issues of the unfinished business and as well as seize the opportunity to create awareness about how choices and opportunities had changed for girls and women since the ICPD and and again, raise awareness and mobilize political support for the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, scheduled from 12 to 14 November, 2019.

According to him, “In 1994, only 15 percent of married women in the least developed countries used contraceptive. Today, 37 percent do. Twenty-five years ago in the least-developed countries, nearly eight in 1,000 women died during pregnancy or childbirth. Today, that rate has been cut in half. A woman in a least-developed country 25 years ago had nearly six children. Today, she has fewer than four. Despite this success, we still have a long way to go before we can claim to have lived up to the committing pledged in Cairo.”

He reemphasized that, UNFPA will collaborate with key partners comprising Youth, CSOs, Government and the private sector to convene multiple stakeholders to discuss the Nairobi summit, its objectives, commitments and engagement plan.

The Executive Director of the National Population Council, Dr. Leticia Adelaide Appiah, on her part said, population issues could also be controlled in the same way as was done with that of polio, which was sustained by countries to its current state.

In an exclusive interview with News Ghana, she said it was very difficult to develop if issues about population are ignored. Saying although, reproduction was an individual choice, but it has communal implications.

Explaining that, youthful population was characterized by high poverty rate, high dependency ratio, high expenditure on government to contain diseases and not to improve healthcare, fewer people paying taxes, and poor quality of education and lack of employment opportunities.

She emphasized that, population and development were inter-related, therefore, in order to improve the quality of development planning, it was important to promote awareness among planners and policy makers on the need to adapt population policies consistent with development objectives.

Dr. Letitia, underscored the need for stakeholders to realise that high risk births, unwanted childbearing and rapid population growth as a demographic path was hampering the country’s development.

Dr. Letitia Appiah, therefore called for the need to invest in family planning programmes as it has proven to bring about health and socio-economic benefits by encouraging smaller, healthier, more educated and skilled families.

Meanwhile, as part of activities to mark the day, there was a drama on demographic dividend which was staged at the Osu Presbyterian Church of Ghana, on Thursday evening from 5pm to 7pm.

Other dignitaries present to grace the occasion were, Dr. Gladys Norley Ashitey, former deputy minister of health under the erstwhile, former President Kuffour’s administration, other partners including Maries Stopes International, Parliamentary Caucus on Population and Development, the Ghana AIDS Commission, Christian Council of Ghana and the Muslim Family Counselling Services.

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