Today is World Population Day, a day first observed in 1989, when there were just over 5 billion people on earth.
We are now 7.8 billion, on a planet that many considered already overpopulated half a century ago when we were only 3.5 billion. Our growth rate is slowing, but the world continues to grow by more than 80 million people a year. Such a large number can be hard to really conceptualize, so think of it like this: we’re adding the equivalent of another New York City every 38 days. A new Los Angeles every 18 days. This massive growth is not concentrated in a single urban ring road, but it is not evenly distributed across the world – more than a third of last year’s population growth occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. only. And almost all (99%) of the population growth between 2020 and 2021 has occurred in less developed countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America where infrastructure, institutions and local environments are already present. often put to the test.
So while some people in high-income countries warn of an impending labor shortage and impending population collapse (birth rates in the United States continue to fall to record highs every year. (the trend being most pronounced among adolescents and women in their early twenties), many low- and middle-income countries are trying to understand how they can improve the lives of their current populations and those who will be born in the years to come. decades to come. All of these people will need food, fresh water, shelter, health care, education and employment. They will also need local environments that will provide them with clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, timber for building and burning for fuel, and healthy soil for growing crops and food. vegetation for grazing livestock. And they will need the ability to adapt to a changing climate. All of these needs are more difficult to meet in a context of rapid population growth.
An estimated 218 million women in developing regions want to avoid pregnancy but have an unmet need for contraception. The global pandemic has almost certainly made matters worse. The UN estimates that COVID-19 has interrupted access to family planning for 20 million people in the Americas alone.
The world’s failure to meet this unmet need comes at enormous costs to women, families, communities and the world. This failure makes it more difficult to reduce maternal and child mortality. This makes it more difficult to reduce poverty and increase educational and economic opportunities. This makes it harder to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has the food they need to thrive. This makes it more difficult for everyone to access drinking water and sanitation services. This makes future zoonotic virus pandemics more likely. And it’s harder to mitigate the damage we do to our climate and adapt to the new world we live in.
It is high time for the United States to step up and lead the world in making universal access to family planning and comprehensive reproductive health care a global priority. All it takes is political will and, frankly, a modest investment in these programs around the world.
Five years after the first World Population Day, the nations of the world gathered in Cairo, Egypt, to commit to concrete action to meet the challenges posed by rapid population growth. Rich and less developed countries alike have pledged to make the necessary investments in family planning programs, girls’ education and maternal health. The United States not only participated, we led the way. Yet in the years since this historic meeting, we have failed to follow through sufficiently, although President BidenJoe Biden Event Center California Drops Plan to Host Gaetz, Greene Xi’s “America First” Tour, Kim Pledges to Strengthen North Korea-China Friendship, Cooperation Shows Preview Sunday: Biden Defends the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan; COVID-19 impacts unvaccinated pockets PLUS made positive efforts.
The United States enjoys its position as a world leader. Encourage our elected representatives in government to be leaders in investing in international family planning. Make no mistake: family planning is an investment. Every dollar spent on international family planning saves three dollars in pregnancy and newborn care. Let us show other donor countries that we can prioritize reproductive health and population stabilization by delivering on the promises we made in Cairo. This will improve security, stability and survival, especially among the world’s most marginalized populations. On this World Population Day, let us commit to improving the lives of the 218 million women with unmet need for family planning, their children, and their communities and countries. Let us fully fund international family planning.
Marian Starkey is vice president of communications at Population Connection, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness of demographic challenges and improves global access to family planning and reproductive health care.