Africa: Family planning under threat
Africa has to find a way to rein in its runaway population growth, said South Africa’s AfricaTimes.com in an editorial. The latest U.N. projection shows the continent’s population will double by 2050. Of the nine countries that will collectively account for half of the world’s population growth, five are in Africa—and they are some of the poorest: Nigeria, Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. It doesn’t have to be that way. If African girls got access to contraceptives and family-planning advice, the continent could reap a “demographic dividend,” as delayed pregnancy leads to better education and better health for women. That in turn will fuel economic growth for everyone. Get reproductive health care to the girls and save the future.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has just made that a lot harder, said Liz Ford in The Guardian (U.K.). For decades, the U.S. had been the world’s largest funder of family planning. But when Trump took office, he halted all funding for the U.N. Population Fund and allocated no money for international family planning in his proposed budget. He also reintroduced the Reagan-era “global gag rule,” which bars U.S. funding of any international health-care provider that even mentions abortion. Already, familyplanning programs across Africa and Asia have been forced to close for lack of funds—just as the largest generation of girls in human history is reaching adolescence. Limiting those girls’ options isn’t just bad for their countries, it also poses a security threat for rich countries, including the U.S. Rampant population growth in the poorest areas of Africa will only “aggravate the current migration crisis.”
Ironically, the misguided Trump policy will end up causing more abortions, said Ruth Maclean, also in The Guardian. The family-planning charity Marie Stopes International estimates that in Nigeria alone in a single year, it helped nearly a quarter-million women avoid abortions by giving them access to contraception. But thanks to U.S. aid cuts, Nigerian clinics are running out of contraceptive implants. Over the next three years, some 10,000 women worldwide are expected to die of complications from unwanted pregnancies. “Americans have so much,” said Nigerian midwife Zainab Malut. “Can’t they help us with this?”
For Nigeria, the coming baby boom is “a disaster waiting to happen,” said This Day (Nigeria). Nigeria’s population is expected to nearly double in just over 30 years, to surpass that of the U.S. We will become the third-largest country in the world, after India and China. Given that we “cannot even boast of 5 percent of the resources available to the U.S.,” how can we possibly feed and educate so many people? How can we guarantee them access to clean water, in order to prevent massive outbreaks of disease? Boko Haram and other extremist groups already press children into militias. Even more “idle and illiterate” children will mean bigger, nastier armed factions— and a greater likelihood of conflict. ■