World Population Day (July 11) received little attention in the United States yesterday. Not so in Asia, where renewed concerns about rapid population growth are prompting governments to actively promote smaller families and expand family planning services.
In Pakistan yesterday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told a national convention on population that population growth is a bigger problem than the water and electricity crises that now grip the country. He said, “I take pride in sharing that the Pakistan Peoples Party is the only political party that includes population planning in its party manifesto.” Federal Minister for Population Welfare, Firdous Ashiq Awan, also spoke. She criticized the prior government for its inaction on family planning and reproductive health, and warned that population growth is directly linked with poverty. She noted that the education and empowerment of women were critical to reducing birth rates.
In New Delhi, India, yesterday Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, ruled out any coercive policies, but said that the government needs to raise awareness about the benefits of having smaller families. He also said that the government should strictly enforce laws banning early marriage. Speaking at a run to mark World Population Day, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit warned that rapid population growth hurts economic development and urged the education and empowerment of girls and women.
Even in Bangladesh, where fertility rates have dropped significantly in the past three decades, government officials warned that more needed to be done to reduce population growth rates. Citing concerns about poverty and the environment, President Zillur Rahman proposed an expansion of family planning services and said the slogan, “Not more than two children, one is better” should be extended across the country to promote smaller families. He also stressed the vital importance of educating and empowering women.
In the Philippines, where the new Aquino government has pledged to expand access to modern methods of contraceptives, the Philippine Star ran an editorial yesterday criticizing the former government for neglecting “family planning and reproductive health for nine and a half years,” and said, “the new administration should commit to promoting maternal and child health, by providing universal access to information on family planning and reproductive rights… impoverished women must be able to make an informed choice on family planning. This is a basic human right.”
As these governments and others in Asia step up efforts to expand voluntary family planning services and boost the education of girls and women, the United States urgently needs to assist in these efforts. That’s a World Population Day message that every American needs to hear.
And here’s another one from USAID about the importance of international family planning assistance:
Posted by Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President