Population Trends and Demography, Security and Governance

Poverty Reduction Stymied by Population Growth

The world will fail to achieve the targets set in the landmark Millennium Development
(MDGs) unless population growth is curbed, says a new report from the United Kingdom’s All-Parliamentary Group on
Population, Development and Reproductive Health
. The report’s findings
underscore the fact that access to family planning and reproductive health
services is not only a fundamental right but also essential to achieving a
wide-range of commonly shared goals, including eradicating poverty and hunger,
reducing maternal and infant death, combating HIV/AIDS, and ensuring
environmental sustainability.

Adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, the
Millennium Development Goals are a series of measurable goals and targets for
reducing poverty, hunger, illiteracy, discrimination against women, and
environmental degradation by 2015. Unfortunately, “[t]he evidence is
overwhelming: the MDGs are difficult or impossible to achieve with the current
levels of population growth in the least developed countries and regions,”
according to the report.

Return of the Population Growth Factor details how the rapid pace of
population growth in the developing world is making it much more difficult to
reduce poverty and improve standards of living. Afghanistan’s population has
more than tripled since 1950 and is projected to triple again—to 97 million—by
2050. The populations of Kenya, Niger, Tanzania and Uganda, among others, have
more than quintupled since 1950 and are continuing to grow rapidly. With high
rates of population growth, these countries face increasingly strained financial
and natural resources. And, in turn, providing necessities like food, clean
water and basic health care to their citizens becomes an insurmountable

The UN took a giant step towards achieving the MDGs when it added universal
access to reproductive health care as a target under the 5th MDG (Improve Maternal Health). However,
as this new report makes clear, access to basic family planning and reproductive
health care is greatly limited in parts of the developing world. “[M]any poor
countries find themselves without adequate supplies of condoms, pills and the
popular injectable contraceptives to meet today’s needs, let alone the far
greater numbers that will be needed 5 and 10 years from now,” according to the

In testimony before the All-Party Parliamentary Group, Robert Engelman, Vice
President for Research at PAI, said “We live in a world facing higher energy
costs, human-induced climate change, and real risks of increasing food
insecurity, poverty and civil conflict.… [S]upport for international family
planning and sexual and reproductive health and rigpopact [is] only a fraction of
what is needed.”

To meet the goals set forth in the MDGs, world leaders must step up efforts
to make family planning and reproductive health services available to every
woman and couple who wants them. The future of the planet depends upon it.

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