Investing $10 billion a year in family planning could keep the world population at around 6 billion in 2100

(Image: Sipa Press/Rex Features)

Will there be 15.8 billion people inhabiting the world in 2100, or 6.2 billion? The first scenario might trigger harsh resource shortages, unrest và war; the latter features a stable planet with hope for all.

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As this century proceeds, more and more of the population growth will be driven by the least developed countries. Most are in Africa, which has an average family form size of 4.7 children per woman. It is the only continent where population is predicted to lớn keep growing beyond 2100.


If Africa’s population increases according to lớn the UN’s medium prediction, the continent will have about 3.6 billion people by the kết thúc of the century – raising its current mô tả of global population from 12 per cent lớn about one-third. Nevertheless, its population could reach 5.2 billion or 2.4 billion by 2100, depending on whether fertility is 0.5 children above sầu or below the UN’s medium estimate.

The population of the Sahel – those semi-arid countries bordering the Sahara – will double or more by 2050 at exactly the time that global warming is likely khổng lồ have sầu the harshest effects. As population growth và global warming coincide, the hunger & refugee problems in the Horn of Africa, and type of resource battles seen in Darfur or South Sudan, will multiply.

Worldwide, the UN predicts 15.8 billion humans by the end of the century if average family form size remains around 2.6 children per woman, but 6.2 billion if it stabilises at 1.6 children. If fertility levels drop khổng lồ the replacement level of 2.1, then there will be 10 billion people.

This week the Royal Society launched a new report called People và the Planet. It reviews the evidence on the liên kết between population và global challenges, underscoring the need lớn move to lớn a biologically sustainable economy as well as lifting the poorest 1.3 billion people out of abject poverty.

The report explores the impacts of population changes on general wellbeing, urbanisation, food & water security, and the risk of conflict. It also emphasises the need to reduce excessive sầu consumption in developed countries & emerging economies. Crucially, the report calls for investment in voluntary family planning, và in the education and wellbeing of girls in the least developed countries in order to slow population growth.

Changing habits

Africa remains the region with the lowest use of contraceptives (29 per cent of married women of reproductive sầu age versus the global average of 69 per cent) and a high dem& for children. However, things are changing. It is possible khổng lồ manage population growth if local governments, the international community & others make the right decisions và provide the right support.

In developing countries between the 1970s & 1990s, cultural sensitivity surrounding childbearing was prevalent, as were suspicions over the intentions of western development partners in promoting family planning. Such sentiments, however, have sầu largely dissipated.

Leaders are becoming more receptive sầu to addressing population issues due to the growing evidence that high growth undermines efforts to ease poverty và hunger, and that investing in quality human capital is needed khổng lồ transform their economies.

The economic turbulence experienced by most developing countries since the 1980s also makes it clear that it will be difficult or impossible khổng lồ break their development shackles without curbing rapid population growth.

Leaders who were once reluctant to lớn promote family planning have joined the family planning bandwagon, thanks to lớn scrutiny of their progress towards the Millennium Development goals (including poverty, equality và sustainability), coupled with the increasing evidence that family planning plays a central role in improving maternal và child health.

Furthermore, although leaders embrace big populations as symbols of political power, a source of global influence and a potential economic asmix, it is increasingly apparent that development goals are better met through high unique populations rather than big ones.

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The political will & commitment to promote family planning & reduce population growth is not as entrenched in the highly populated countries of central and west Africa as it is in northern, southern and parts of eastern Africa. But it is instructive that virtually all African countries now acknowledge rapid population growth as one of the key impediments khổng lồ development.

For example, Rwanda has seen one of the faschạy thử increases in history in use of modern contraceptives – from 6 per cent of married women of reproductive age in 2000 khổng lồ 45 per cent in 2010. Malawi, which banned family planning between 1969 và 1984, has one of Africa’s highest levels of modern contraceptive use – 42.2 per cent – in 2010.

And while many African leaders could once argue that it was against African culture khổng lồ promote family planning, the evidence over the past two decades shows that most women are having more children than they would lượt thích, and many would like khổng lồ postpone their next birth.

Across the globe, 215 million women report unmet need for family planning. In most African countries, the majority of women of reproductive sầu age have sầu unmet family planning needs. In sub-Saharan Africa, 42 of the 78 million women who need family planning are not using modern contraception. About two in five sầu women in Ghana, Zambia, Malawi & Togo recently reported that their last birth was unplanned.

This is due to lớn a lachồng of services, disapproval of family planning, misinformation, misconceptions & medical barriers, such as limiting oral contraceptive use khổng lồ medical prescription. These barriers can be addressed through voluntary family planning programmes that are well-planned, appropriately funded, with svào community involvement and mobilisation.

Girls who stay in school longer have fewer children because they marry later. They are also more likely to lớn want fewer children as they want khổng lồ pursue a career and enjoy greater power lớn negotiate contraception use.

Governments should legislate against child marriages, & young people deserve youth-friendly reproductive health services. Unfortunately, family planning is not high on the development priority danh mục in many least developed countries và is subsequently under-funded. The international community needs to lớn step in. Evidence shows that in such cases, governments slowly assume funding responsibility.

The Royal Society report suggests that offering family planning through appropriate clinical, commercial and community channels could cost about $6 lớn 7 billion per year. It would cost perhaps another $1 billion to lớn keep half of 15 to lớn 19-year-old girls in the fastest-growing least developed countries in school instead of entering inlớn child marriage.

An overall investment of $10 billion a year today could begin to lớn move sầu global population towards 6 billion in 2100. Taking no action will cost many times more. The pace of technical change, global warming, competition for resources & short-term national rivalries point khổng lồ problems in the future.

There is no way to guarantee a safe future, but the commonsense view is that a world of 6 or 7 billion people with reasonable living standards for most is a better bet than one with 12 lớn 16 billion in which 5 to lớn 6 billion struggle to survive on a few dollars a day while the richest continue to consume too much, và women are still denied their freedom.

At less than one thousandth of global GDPhường, $10 billion dollars per year could potentially change the course of the 21st century.

Author Profile: Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu is the founder và executive sầu director of the African Institute for Development Policy, which promotes use of retìm kiếm and related evidence in decision-making processes related khổng lồ population change, reproductive sầu health & sustainable development in Africa. He was a member of the Royal Society study group that produced the report People và the Planet.

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