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Population and Poverty
Category: Population | By RFPD, 20-Feb-2012 | Viewed 2786  Comments 0 | Original Source
Devendra K Kothari
By: Rtn. (Dr.) Devendra Kothari
Professor, Population Program Management

The world is on the verge of eradicating the dreaded disease - Polio - perhaps by the next year, or the year after.   The eradication campaign began more than twenty-five years ago, with a push from an unusual source: Rotary International (RI). The WHO and others took notice and came on board.  Now the question arises whether Rotary will turn its attention toward the population factor, since it has significant bearing on poverty. 

Poverty is the state for the majority of the world's people and nations. Why is this? Is it enough to blame poor people for their own predicament? Or blame their governments for perusing policies that actually harm successful development? Such causes of poverty and inequality are no doubt real. But the deeper causes are often less discussed. 

It is often observed that rapid population growth aggravates poverty, since it holds down returns to labor relative to capital and other factors of production, depressing wages and worsening the income distribution. Further, fast growing population leads to a significant diversion of national investable resources to consumption, which could otherwise be used for increasing investment and productivity and for improving the quality of public social services.  In the last 45 years, the population of this small planet has more than doubled from 3.5 billion in 1967, and is set to be 9.5 billion by 2050. Population is increasing mainly because more than two in five pregnancies worldwide are unintended or unwanted by the women who experience them, and half or more of these pregnancies result in births that spur continued population growth. And this is one of the most important reasons behind persisting poverty. According to the World Bank, nearly half the world (48 percent) lives in poverty on less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. 

The ability to plan the number of children to have and when to have them is a recognized human right. However, universal access to contraceptives is not yet a reality especially among the poorest. Worldwide, 215 million women would like to delay or prevent pregnancy, but are not using effective contraception. Simply meeting this 'unmet need' for contraception would go a long way towards lowering fertility. The demand for family planning is expected to soar in the next 15 years as millions of young people become sexually active and smaller families become the norm in many countries. But funding for family planning is only a part of what is needed. Growing population is not a universal issue. It is confined only to few countries of Asia and Africa, which are least able to support increasing populations. However, it adversely affects the quality of life throughout the world.It appears that humanity has reached a crisis point with respect to the interlocking issues of overpopulation, unsustainable development and human suffering. With Rotary International's rich, religious, ethnic, and cultural background and with membership in over 160 countries,  a good many people  believe that Rotary could be the ideal platform for achieving coordination in efforts to push the agenda for reducing unwanted fertility and, consequently,  the incidence of poverty. As such, RI must re-emphasize its commitment to population stabilization and provide essential leadership to promote reproductive health services and increase awareness of the social, economic, and environmental consequences of rapid population growth.  RI should also work actively to educate policymakers, program managers, the media and the general public about the population factor. 

I am sure that Rotary International will take the position that every child should be a wanted one. Achieving this goal would prevent the suffering of women and their families and the social problems that often follow the birth of unwanted children.  We should follow the motto "Service Above Self".

Originally published in the Fragile Earth newsletter of the Rotarian Action Group for Population Growth and Sustainable Development

Devendra K Kothari
After obtaining formal degree in population sciences from the Harvard University (1975) and Australian National University (1980), Prof. Devendra Kothari has been working in the area of population program management. He was associated with the Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR), Jaipur for more than 14 years. Currently, he is working as the Director of Forum for Population Action (FFPA), a national NGO, working on issues on population and development (www.ffpa.weebly.com). He headed the team, which drafted state-specific Population Policies for Madhya Pradesh (2000) and Rajasthan (1998). Dr. Kothari chaired the National Committee, constituted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India to review the implementation of the family welfare programme.. Dr. Kothari has been a consultants to various national and international agencies including, UNFPA, UNICEF, Population Council, Population Action International, National Council of Applied Economic Research, etc.
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