Seven billion people… and counting
The short answer is, expanding… rapidly. The most likely average scenario is, reportedly, that the world population will grow to 9.7 billion by 2050. And that figure assumes a substantial increase in the number of contraceptive users in developed and developing countries.
If contraceptive use remains stable, however, the world population could reach 11.9 billion by 2050. Grappling for perspective, that means by the time a child born in the mid-80s reaches retirement age, there will be more than double the amount of people on the planet with them.
And there is a further variable to consider. If contraceptive use declines, which could occur unless investment is increased immediately in family planning, then the population will be significantly higher still.
By reducing unmet need for contraception, empowering women and increasing education for girls, it is possible to achieve the lower population growth path deemed possible by demographers at the UN.
And the stakes could barely be higher. The carbon footprint of people in most developing countries is tiny but the impact of climate change on their lives is increasing exponentially. Growing pressure on natural resources, rising water levels and less arable land are making it harder for women and their families to get by – to find firewood and grow food to eat. Harder still, to bring in money for schooling, for health care or to build a future for their children.
In short, we are standing at a reproductive crossroads, with 1.5 billion adolescents and young people entering their sexual and reproductive years. What the future holds for them depends on whether we can work together to develop sustainably.
We have a long way to go. Interact Worldwide’s colleagues in India, for example, tell us that young people there simply don’t have access to contraceptives. There isn’t even adequate information about reproductive health.. There are thousands of peer educators volunteering their time to make the information available, supporting people to make the choices that work for them, often in very conservative environments. But even then, it’s very difficult to link them up with services – to turn choices into action- because family planning and contraception are not priorities.
They’re caught in a self-defeating cycle. Each time a young woman makes a wasted journey to a clinic with an empty supplies cupboard the question is, will she make the journey again? And what will that mean for her future? We’re working to support women, men and communities to demand better health services but without adequate funding the reality is that the store cupboard will probably remain empty for the foreseeable future.
There is a will, with 215 million women wanting to limit or space their births but until governments and the private sector work together to fund a range of contraceptive methods – including methods that are culturally and socially acceptable to these women – they will continue to be denied the right to determine their own fertility.
Evidence shows that if you give women and adolescent girls a platform to consider and articulate their needs, as well as genuine support to realize their rights, then they will make the reproductive choices that work for them, their families and their communities. And that has to be at the heart of sustainable development.
Marie Staunton, CEO Interact Worldwide. Interact Worldwide is the UK partner of Countdown 2015 Europe.Tagged in: contraceptive, family planning, pop
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