Population growth hinders Yemen’s development [Archives:2006/964/Local News]

July 17 2006

By: Nashwan Dammaj
IBB, July 12 ) Timed with the World Population Day, the General Secretariat of the National Population Council, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), set up a festival celebrating the occasion in Ibb.

The participants' speeches focused on population growth rates in Yemen, one of the highest rates in the world. They also addressed the future problems and fears resulting from this speedy growth and the hurdles facing Yemen in the absence of awareness concerning reproductive health.

Dr. Arwa Al-Rabai'e, Deputy Minster for Health, stated, “Education and awareness programs concerning reproductive health are not enough, not only in Yemen but also in the Arab world.” She also pointed out, “Young people enter this stage, lacking the necessary knowledge, and are unprepared for life's requirements and unaware of the consequences relating to unwanted and early pregnancy and STDs. All these matters make this group economically-dependent on others.”

For his part, Mr. Hans Hobgin , UNFPA representative in Yemen, said, “World Population Day this year focuses on youth, in order to bring people's attention to new problems young people face. Young people represent a great percentage of their communities' population, and about one half of world population is under 27 years old.” In Yemen, the percentage of the population under the age of 14 years old is 44%.

Furthermore, Hobgin pointed out that, “More young people today are threatened by poverty, illiteracy and HIV/AIDS. As for young women, they are subject to early pregnancy and delivery.” He added, “more than 500 million people aged between 15-24 years old live on less than US$2 a day. 69 million women are illiterate and about 14 million girls aged between 15-19 years old become mothers each year. 6,000 people contract HIV/AIDS every day.”

He continued, “Yemen's population will reach 35 million by 2025, and the youth rate now equals 44%. These young people face so many problems, including unemployment, poverty, early marriage and pregnancy, qat chewing, dropping out of school and HIV diseases, particularly AIDS.”

“At the 2005 summit attended by world leaders, among them was President Saleh, the leaders expressed their desire to exert greater efforts to reduce poverty, improve health conditions and secure a more luxurious life for people. These goals will not be achieved unless young people actively participate in setting policies and population programs,” he further said.

Dr. Ameen Al-Janad, General Secretary of the National Council of Population, said, “Population growth in Yemen is a real problem. According to 2004 statistics, Yemeni population reached 21 million, with an annual increase of 3%, equal to 641,000 each year. We have a fertility rate of 6.2%.

“The population work program, adopted by the state last year and covering the period 2001-2025, is an executive program aiming to face population problems. The program was made with the help of experts from the World Bank, with a total cost of YR 33billion,” added Dr. Al-Janad.

Abdulrahman Al-Akwa, Minister for Youth, said, “Most problems faced by the Yemeni community result directly from population growth, that being the great challenge for development in Yemen.”

“Yemen also has the biggest population gatherings in the area, with more than 123,000 gatherings, posing a great difficulty to planners when trying to provide infrastructure and utilities. Development can be achieved only with the existence of the correct balance between population growth and the economic growth. When population growth rates are higher, this means more poverty, illiteracy and backwardness,” added Al-Akwa.

Dr. Abdulkarim Rasae, Minister for Health, concluding the activity said, “The increase of the population growth rate is attributed to the high fertility rates on one hand and the improvement of women's and children's services and the control over endemic diseases on the other. Due to this annual increase in population, the population problem is considered a great burden on the march for development.

“Over three years, UNFP will help the Ministry of Health provide family planning means for free. Later on, the Ministry alone will make them available,” indicated Rasae.