World Population Day: Focus on needs of women, youth & marginalised, say experts

It is imperative to focus on the needs of women, youth, and marginalised communities that remain inadequate owing to the rising population, said experts on World Population Day on Thursday.

World Population Day is observed every year on July 11 to raise awareness about global population issues and their impact on society. The theme for this year is “Leave no one behind, count everyone”.

With about 142.86 crore population, India overtook China to become the world’s most populous nation, according to the UNFPA’s State of the World Population Report in 2023.

Speaking to IANS, Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of the Population Foundation Of India (PFI), said even though India became the world’s most populous nation, “we have attained the replacement-level fertility rate.”

“This means that the average number of children born per woman is sufficient to keep the population size stable from one generation to the next,” she explained.

Yet, due to a large proportion of young people, the population in India will continue to grow.

“Nonetheless, we have made remarkable progress towards population stabilisation,” Poonam said.

However, she called for a shift in focus — on reaching the unreached, that is, the women, young people, and marginalised communities.

“The reproductive rights, access to resources, and health and well-being outcomes of these groups remain inadequate,” Poonam said.

There are approximately 24 million women with an unmet need for family planning, meaning they want to stop or delay childbearing but lack the access or agency to use contraception.

“The upcoming budget must increase the investment in family planning, especially in long-lasting modern contraceptives, as addressing these needs is crucial for achieving equitable and sustainable development,” the PFI chief said.

This was also advocated by the Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda, who called for “healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy for the health and well-being of mother and child.”

Population increases also create congestion and deplete human health resources.

“It also adds load to our already overburdened infrastructure, deprives people of basic amenities, causes scarcity of water, problems related to hygiene and sewage,” M Wali, Senior Consultant, Department of Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told IANS.

Overpopulation can also worsen health care indices like morbidity and mortality as preventive and screening health care needs of the population (especially the vulnerable sections like women, children, and elderly) are not adequately met.

“Uplifting women is an efficient strategy to keep the overpopulation problem in check. Educated women are more likely to exercise their reproductive rights, that is, use contraception and motivate their partners for the same, plan families, and consider termination of undesired pregnancies. They are also more likely to understand the importance of having small and healthy families,” Isha Wadhawan, from Fortis Faridabad, told IANS.

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