Biblical account tells us that in the beginning, after forming man -male and female – God instructed them to “be fruitful and increase in number; to fill the earth and subdue it.”
Centuries later, and with a bustling number of human and other life forms struggling to survive on diminishing natural resources, isn’t it time to consider that we have filled out the earth alright but may have crossed the thin line between dominion and suppression?
Today is World Population Day. It was established by the then-Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme. It seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. The theme for this year is ‘Family Planning is a Human Right’.
Here are some statistics from the Financial Times:
Various sources including the United Nations, the population of the world was estimated to be around 2.6 billion in 1950. The number grew to 5 billion in 1987 and 7 billion by 2011.
Now, around sixty per cent of the global population lives in Asia (4.4 billion), 16 per cent in Africa (1.2 billion), 10 per cent in Europe (738 million), 9 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean (634 million), and the remaining 5 per cent in Northern America (358 million) and Oceania (39 million).
With a population of 1.4 billion, China, and 1.3 billion, India, are the two largest countries in the world. China represents 19 per cent of the world’s population, and India, 18 per cent. Nigeria is projected to become the third largest nation in the world by 2050 according to the United Nations.
With a population of about 800 people, Vatican City is reportedly the least-populated country in the world. Out of these around 450 people have Vatican citizenship, while the rest have permission to reside there, either temporarily or permanently, without a citizenship.
Among the factors that influence population growth are fertility rates, increasing longevity, and migration.
As per the World Population Prospects (2015 Revision), global fertility is projected to fall from 2.5 children per woman in 2010-2015 to 2.4 in 2025-2030 and 2.0 by 2095-2100. Of the 21 high-fertility countries, 19 are in Africa and 2 are in Asia.
Whereas the low-fertility countries include those in Europe and Northern America, 20 nations in Asia, 17 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 3 in Oceania, and 1 in Africa. Another factor that affects the number is longevity. Global life expectancy at birth has gone up from 67 to 70 years. Life expectancy in Africa in 2010-2015 was 60 years, 72 years in Asia, 75 years in Latin America and the Caribbean, 77 years in Europe and in Oceania, and 79 years in Northern America.
Contraceptives lie at the heart of proper family planning and indirectly, the control of population growth. However the use of contraceptives is largely coloured by cultural and religious sentiments especially in this part of the world where culture and religion form very important corner stones of everyday life.
According to Senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan, the use of contraceptives in the country is terribly low. A 2013 Demographic and Health Survey shows that Nigeria has made no concrete improvements in the use of contraceptives in the last decade.
While about 85% of women and 95% of men reported knowing a contraceptive method, just 15% were using it. A Nigerian woman gives birth to an average of 5.5 children in her lifetime. The country’s annual population growth rate as at 2015 was 2.6%.
In North African country Algeria, 57% of married women are using contraception and a woman will give birth to an average of 3 children in her lifetime. The country has an annual population growth rate is 1.89%.
Just last month, a Brookings Institution report declared that Nigeria had taken over as the number one abode for the world’s poorest people. While replacing India’s 73 million population, Nigeria with her current 87 million poor people is still projected to, by the end of 2018, contribute to an additional 3.2 million to the pool in Africa as a whole.
“Africans account for about two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor and that If current trends persist, Africa will account for nine-tenths by 2030. Fourteen out of 18 countries in the world — where the number of extreme poor is rising — are in Africa,” the report also says.
What this means is that regardless of economic growth and infrastructural development, we can no longer allow our population to continue growing unchecked if we are to reach a time when the available resources will be able to cater to a larger percentage of the population as against what is currently obtainable.
Experts argue that the poor knowledge of the varying contraceptive methods available to married couples is to blame for the uncontrolled breeding of children whom the systems in place as at 2018 can no longer support especially in a country like Nigeria. But is this all there is to it?
Over the years, in Africa, the responsibility of spacing children and ensuring that unwanted pregnancies stay at bay has fallen largely on the laps of women. Unfortunately, women remains the gender at the receiving end of many harmful and one-sided constructs of culture and religion. While listening to a group of old friends share their experiences, I realised that not only was this an enormous responsibility given the fact that two people are usually involved in marital arrangements, not many options are really quite available to men to choose from when it comes to contraception.
As far as is presently available, a man can only use a condom, withdraw or get a surgical vasectomy if he is to contribute to limiting the number of children he is to bring into this world with his partner. While the success rates of the first two are so minimal it is almost unsubstantial, the third procedure is not only irreversible (a fearful potential) but also has side effects that range from poor libido to the onset of prostate cancer.
However, recent research studies say that the prospects for more male centered contraceptives may have grown a little wider with current clinical researches going on a potential male birth control pill, a less severe vasectomy procedure and a daily gel that halts sperm production.
More importantly nonetheless, for a country as peculiar as Nigeria, I believe the spotlight needs to be shone on two very key demographics if the spiraling growth of the country’s population is to be checked.
On one hand are women and men in the grassroots, most of whom the use of contraceptives are still taboo and sacrilegious, and on the other hand is the continent’s growing population of millennial liberals who are part of a growing world of free-thinking and free-acting individuals. We must remember that breaking the long-held ideologies in these areas in this part of the world has become increasingly difficult in a world that seems to be fighting to erode every moral fibre that has been woven into our history.
Nevertheless, while fighting to preserve our cultural and religious values and ideals, we must practically and objectively weigh the pros and cons of our decisions and ponder on how the future will adversely be impacted if we continue on this tangent.
While emulating and trying to foster the liberal ideals of the West that encourage premarital sex especially the unguarded kind, we must be willing to match it with preaching a protected and sensible approach, casting shame, ridicule or modesty aside for the protection of our future.
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