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World Population Day: Safeguarding the health and rights of women and girls

Putting the brakes on COVID-19: how to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls.

World Population Day is observed annually on 11 July. It marks the date, in 1987, when the world’s population hit the 5 billion mark. The theme this year is based on safeguarding the health and rights of women and girls around the world especially during the time of COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres stated that, COVID19 has deepened existing inequalities & vulnerabilities for women & girls. On Saturday’s World Population Day and every day, we must protect the rights of women and girls, end gender-based violence and safeguard sexual and reproductive health care.

Meanwhile, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive director, United nations population fund (UNFPA) said that, “family planning is not only a matter of human rights but is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty and achieving sustainable growth. There were an estimated 7.8 billion people living on Earth as of March 2020, and with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the number is expected to rise due to unplanned pregnancies.

The world population is projected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030, and to increase further to 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100, this dramatic growth has been driven largely by increasing numbers of people surviving to reproductive age, and has been accompanied by major changes in fertility rates, increasing urbanization and accelerating migration. As with any type of projection, there is a degree of uncertainty surrounding these latest population projections.

Following the UN official, The COVID-19 crisis has taken a staggering toll on people, communities and economies everywhere. But not everyone is affected equally. Women, who account for the largest share of front-line health workers, for example, are disproportionately exposed to the coronavirus. Supply chains around the world are being disrupted, impacting the availability of contraceptives and heightening the risk of unintended pregnancy. As countries are on lockdown and health systems struggle to cope, sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined and gender-based violence is on the rise.

As per study, The UNFPA recent research remarked that if the lockdown continues for 6 months with major disruptions to health services, then 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives resulting in 7 million unintended pregnancies. 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence can also be expected. The disruption of UNFPA’s programmes on the ground could result in 2 million cases of female genital mutilation and 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030 that could have been averted, The UN attributed.

Moreover, women disproportionately work in insecure labour markets and are harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19. Nearly 60 percent of women worldwide work in the informal economy, at greater risk of falling into poverty. Women’s unpaid care work has increased as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people. The pandemic is hitting marginalized communities particularly hard, deepening inequalities and threatening to set us back in our efforts to leave no one behind. Our response to COVID-19 in every country is critical and will determine how fast the world recovers and whether we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or not, Officially the UN stated.

Shrinking population in Europe

In sharp contrast, the populations of 55 countries or areas in the world are expected to decrease by 2050, of which 26 may see a reduction of at least ten per cent. Several countries are expected to see their populations decline by more than 15 per cent by 2050, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine. Fertility in all European countries is now below the level required for full replacement of the population in the long run (around 2.1 children per woman), and in the majority of cases, fertility has been below the replacement level for several decades.

China and India: Most populated countries

According to World Population Prospects 2019, Sixty-one per cent of the global population lives in Asia (4.7 billion), 17 per cent in Africa (1.3 billion), 10 per cent in Europe (750 million), 8 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean (650 million), and the remaining 5 per cent in Northern America (370 million) and Oceania (43 million). China (1.44 billion) and India (1.39 billion) remain the two largest countries of the world, both with more than 1 billion people, representing 19 and 18 per cent of the world’s population, respectively.

Around 2027, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country, while China’s population is projected to decrease by 31.4 million, or around 2.2 per cent, between 2019 and 2050. These figures are based on the medium projection variant, which assumes a decline of fertility for countries where large families are still prevalent, as well as a slight increase of fertility in several countries with fewer than two children per woman on average. Survival prospects are also projected to improve in all countries.

Despite all of this, UNFPA supports family planning in developing countries by ensuring a reliable supply of a full range of modern contraceptives, strengthening national health systems, and promoting gender equality”. The United Nations has also list down, ‘Nine standards to uphold the human rights to family planing’ such as Non-discrimination, Available, Accessible, Acceptable, Good quality, Informed decision-making, Privacy and confidentiality, Privacy and confidentiality, Participation and Accountability.

(Author: Trilok Singh is with CEO at Youth Darpan and the IASmind).

REF:

  • World Population Dashboard
  • World Population Prospects 2019
  • United Nations Official series

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