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World Population Day: Getting the government to do more
It is projected that by 2100, Nigeria’s population will be about 730 million people, making the country the third most populous nation in the world. However, as things stand today, it is unclear whether the Nigerian government would be able to cater for the additional Nigerians. As the world celebrates the World Population Day today, this poser leaves the country with an option to look towards cutting the projected growth. Adewale Oshodi reports.
RECENTLY, the United Nations Population division released its projection about world populations, and by 2030, Nigeria was said to be likely to have 300,000,000 inhabitants, while by 2100, the country’s population, if not checked, will likely rise to 729,885,000, making the country the third most populous country in the world after India and China.
If this happens, it may result in a huge strain and drain on the country’s meagre resources, if the country’s economy continues as it currently is. At the moment, the country has not been producing enough to feed its citizens as it continues to import food. Having a population that triples what the country currently has means more mouths will be around to be fed, and in a country that does not plan ahead for the future, then there will definitely be a problem.
Accordingly to agricultural experts, it is not only in food production that problems would arise. Education, health, housing, transportation, security, and many areas, would need to readjust to the reality of having millions of people to cater for.
What is frightening, however, is the fact that even today, when the country’s population is still about 160 million people, all these sectors are struggling to cope; what then happens when Nigeria is a country of 300million people, or by 2100, when about 730million people will be living in the country, thus making Nigeria the third most populous country in the world?
It was as a result of all these, that the United Nations specifically named the July 11, every year as the World Population Day, and it is to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues in the context of overall development plans and programmes and the need to find solutions for these issues.
According to a message to commemorate last year’s World Population Day, which also marked the year when the world’s seventh billion inhabitant was born, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, said, “this is an opportunity to celebrate our common humanity and our diversity. It is also a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for each other and our planet.”
While the message is important, it is not yet clear how much the Nigerian government is doing towards preparing for the population explosion in the next couple of years. It is either the government projects into the future to plan for the number of future Nigerians who will need access to health, schooling, water, housing, among others, or the government adopts an approach to tackle the rising population, thereby significantly cutting the projected population, while also preparing for the new additions.
However, a lot of money and other resources will be saved if methods like family planning are used in cutting into the country’s projected growth. The good news, however, is that the president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, recently acknowledged the need to control the population.
He said “the issue of population regulation is very sensitive, but government cannot fold its arms until the country’s population becomes uncontrollable.” Since the government is aware of this now, the political will to act is the only clog in the wheel of progress.
However, there are several Non Government Organisations (NGOs) in the field of giving access reproductive health services to Nigerians.
Apart from the fact that these services help in reducing population explosion, it also helps in curbing maternal mortality, as well as boosting families’ livelihoods.
According to a report of the Population Council, reproductive health is a human right and increasing the demands for family planning would avert 54 million unintended pregnancies, more than 79,000 maternal deaths, and more than a million infant deaths each year.
While also speaking on this issue, the Oyo State Team Leader of the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), Mrs Stella Akinso said, family planning is one of the most successful development interventions of the past 50 years.
“Apart from the fact that it helps in curbing the population, it also has poverty-reducing effects, helps women achieve their human rights to health, autonomy, personal decision making about family size and lead to increase in household earning.
“Family planning is unique in its range of potential benefits, encompassing economic development, maternal and child health, educational advances, and women’s empowerment.
“Reducing the unmet need for FP services can help Nigeria significantly reduce the costs of meeting the five selected Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” Mrs Akinso state.
Another family health expert, Dr Ibukunola Idris, however, admitted that while foreign organisations are helping the country in tackling this explosion through different methods like family planning, it is important government also wake up to its responsibilities.
“The intervention of these foreign organisations can only be minimal, although we must really commend them for the impact they are having on the society, especially the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other organisations, but government must know this is a Nigerian problem and, therefore, set aside funds towards curbing population explosion," Dr Idris said.