60 million Yemenis by 2050 [Archives:2007/1113/Viewpoint]

December 20 2007

The UNFPA and Women National Committee held a joint workshop on gender for media this week. The workshop aimed at sensitizing Yemeni media to gender and giving women and gender issues their fair share of attention in media.

Hans Obdeujn, UNFPA country representative addressed the audience in an opening keynote. “If the growth and fertility rates remain as they are now, the Yemeni population will reach 60 million by 2050,” he said.

In forty years, the Yemeni population will triple.

“Who will feed all these people?” he asked.

“Who will house them? Who will educate them? Who will employ them?”

“Who will give them a bright future?” he insisted.

What Obdeujn was talking about scared me. I started imagining swarms of new babies flooding the streets crying and asking to be fed and attended to. Perhaps the pressure from juggling a demanding job and a demanding toddler has gotten the best of me, but seriously, it was a really scary thing to imagine.

Yet, apparently people at the high levels, although pretend to understand the significance of population and gender issues, have no idea what they are up against. They think if they sign off a project or a conference on gender or population, the problem will go away. Worse, is that they think if they hand over the responsibility to a department in a ministry to take care of women issues, they could relax feeling satisfied that they have done their job.

It seems there is a lack of understanding that population and women issues should be integrated in all socio-economic & political strategies.

“The decision makers at the highest levels fail to understand that women's role in political, economic, social and even family decisions are key to the development of Yemen,” Obdeujn went on.

To be honest, while he was stressing on the importance of women and population mainstreaming in the general strategies, I was still thinking of the 60 million mouths waiting to be fed.

How are we going to be able to handle so much pressure with our diminishing resources? We have so many challenges as a country in terms of economic and social development with the existing 20 million already. The maternal mortality rate in Yemen is the highest in the world, where 365 women deaths for every 100,000 child births. “It is like a plane full with women crashing down every year and killing all its passengers,” Obdeujn explained.

As media people we really have to act soon to spread the message. There is no point in waiting, because every day that passes with out doing something only brings us closer to the flood of babies overwhelming our economy and using our energy. Don't get me wrong, I love kids, but 60,000 for a country like Yemen, is simply too much.