News / Health

World Population Day Focuses on Family Planning

The United Nations has named Wednesday World Population Day 2012, and the emphasis this year is on access to reproductive health.  The U.N. says the number of women in the world’s poorest countries who want to use contraception, but don't, increased by nine million.

There are already seven billion people living in this world. Half of the population is under the age of 25.

“We add a quarter of a million people a day to the world population, and, of course, the planet itself is not growing,” said John Seager, president of Population Connection, an organization that promotes stabilizing population numbers.

Seager says all women should be able to select the size of their families and, when they do, they typically choose to have fewer children. But a recent United Nations report says 222 million women worldwide who want to avoid or delay pregnancy have no access to birth control.  And that the number of women not using contraception in the world's poorest countries has increased over the past four years.

Two of those countries are Pakistan and India. Ilhaam Jaffer came to the United States from Pakistan as an infant. Her mother is Pakistani and her father, Indian.  She says talk of birth control in her parents' countries is often taboo for religious and cultural reasons.

“If a woman has a pregnancy prior to when she had planned on it, in her mind, education and her career and various other things are put on the back burner,” Jaffer said.

Jaffer says that creates a society of young mothers with lower earning power and that ultimately affects the nation's economy.

Another poor country with a big population is Ethiopia.  Mahala Dejene arrived in the United States two years ago and says family planning has improved in Ethiopia.

“Before - year by year - they have children.  Now, they control the baby, the family,” Dejene said.

The United Nations calls for universal access to reproductive health by 2015.  Ilhaam Jaffer thinks she knows the key to getting there.

“The only solution I think is educating the women.  If you educate a woman, you educate an entire family,” Jaffer said.

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

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