A news story, “Soaring Population May Swamp Anti-Poverty Goals,” released today from Inter Press Service looks at the effects increased population growth will have on the ability for underdeveloped countries to reach their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
According to the latest projections from the U.N. and the Population Reference Bureau, the world is going to reach a population of 7 billion by 2011, just 12 years after the 6 billion mark was passed. With much of that population growth occurring in poor nations, it has large implications for the ability of developing countries to reduce severe poverty, improve health, and meet the other MDG goals. When asked about the growing world population, Jose Miguel Guzman, chief of the Population and Development Branch at UNFPA states in the article:
Many developing, and particularly the least developed countries (LCDs), will face a continuous increase in the demand for services, specifically in education and health.
That means there will be an increasing need for social investment just to catch up with population growth, giving fewer opportunities to increase the quality of the services, which is needed to generate the changes requested to attain the MDGs.
Looking at how rapid population growth could affect specific MDGs, Karen Hardee at Population Action International indicates that MDGs 1 and 7 (Eradicating Poverty and Hunger, and Ensuring Environmental Sustainability) will be significantly affected, due to more people competing for limited farm land. She also warns that the goal of achieving universal primary education (MDG 2) is jeopardized by rapid population growth. She is quoted as saying:
If this growth outpaces governments’ abilities to provide schools – which is the case in many developing countries – educational quality diminishes, fewer have access to education and opportunities for employment.
As was reported on August 7, 2009, in a Population Matters blog post about the Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, far too little progress is being made on MDG 5, which seeks to reduce maternal deaths and provide universal access to reproductive health services. In the end, it may be the most critical of all the MDGs. The failure of the U.S. and other donor nations to make good on promises to expand voluntary family planning services, more than any other single policy failure, could impede progress on all the other MDG goals.
Slowing down the growth rate of countries that are growing quickly will help enable those countries meet the MDGs instead of pushing the goalposts ever further away. It is time for donor countries around the world to step up their commitments on providing universal access for voluntary family planning, or population growth may prevent many countries from meeting the other MDGs.
Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager