By Petronella Sibeene
Today is World Population Day. In Namibia, policy makers have been urged to match economic growth with population growth.
Central Bureau of Statistics’ Deputy Director for Demographics and Social Statistics, Liina Kafidi, revealed to New Era yesterday that the country’s population is growing at 2.6 percent.
She attributed the growth to high birth rates and perhaps net migration though that is yet to be confirmed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.
During the 1991 census, the country’s population stood at 1.8 million people but today, it is estimated at 2 million.
“The death rate is high and yet the fertility rate is also significant,” she said.
Currently, on average, one woman has four children.
Rural areas record high cases of birth and according to Kafidi, it could be that these people are not mostly involved in economic activities compared to people in urban areas.
While population growth in a country like Namibia is viewed as a good trend, Kafidi says, “When compared to the economy, it is growing very slowly to cater for the needs.
We have to double our efforts on the economic front.”
An area of concern is life expectancy, which has in the past 18 years decreased by 10 years.
Kafidi explained that in 1991, female life expectancy was 63 years but that decreased to 50 years by 2001.
For males, in 1991 the life expectancy was at 59 years but today it stands at 48 years.
Meanwhile, this year’s World Population Day focuses on an essential public health intervention – family planning.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), this year’s theme was chosen given the crucial role family planning plays in human life.
The organisation explains that decisions about childbearing are important and the benefits of family planning extend beyond just one’s life.
“Family planning saves lives. It is a high-impact intervention that improves the health of women and mothers,” says UNFPA in a press release.
It also enables women and couples to space their children along with skilled attendance at birth and emergency obstetric care.
Family planning is a proven intervention to achieve Millennium Development Goal number five to improve maternal health as world leaders have agreed, the organisation says.
“Family planning is essential to women’s empowerment and gender equality. When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life.
Information and services for family planning allow individuals and couples to realise their right to determine the number, spacing and timing of their children,” UNFPA added.
Based on that UNFPA representative, Dr Pandu Hailonga, called on governments to re-energise their commitment to family planning and to ensure universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
She added that political commitment and equal opportunity for all should be made a priority by governments and financial investment should also be at the core.
“It is time to make reproductive health, including family planning, a priority,” she stressed.
UNFPA is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy life by using population data for policies and programmes with the aim of reducing poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS and every individual is treated with respect and dignity.”
The ability to plan when and how many children to have is a human rights issue, she said.