Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Empowering youth was the main message at a meeting held to mark a World Population Day ceremony in Burma’s capital attended by UN and government officials.
As the world’s population looks set to reach 7 billion in October, the United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA sees a “demographic window of opportunity” to educate and provide better health care to Burma’s young people.
This was the message conveyed by Mohamed Abdel-Ahad, the UNFPA representative for Myanmar, at a commemorative ceremony jointly organized by UNFPA and the Ministry of Immigration and Population (MOIP) in Naypyitaw on Monday, according to a press release from the UN office. Several ministers and government officials, diplomats, representatives of UN agencies, NGOs and winners of various contests held on the day participated.
Abdel-Ahad highlighted the achievements and challenges of a world with an ever-increasing population, and the choices and decisions that have to be made.
He said ensuring a healthy world of 7 billion people requires action to tackle poverty and inequality, empowering women and girls, forging a better future for young people and promoting reproductive health and rights. It also includes protecting the environment, planning for urban growth and addressing the needs of the elderly.
The UN figures are telling. According to the UNFPA, by October 2011 the world’s population will have doubled since 1968. Since 1987, the number of people on the planet had jumped from 5 billion to 7 billion. By 2050 it is forecast to stand at close to 10 billion.
Burma’s population stands at about 55 million, slightly less than 1 per cent of the world’s population, dwarfed by neighbouring giants China, at 1.3 billion, and India, at 1.2 billion.
Abdel-Ahad said that Burma was in the last stage of demographic transition, calling for a two-pronged strategy. He said the first set of policies should be developed to make use of this “demographic window of opportunity” represented by the increasingly large proportion of people in the working age 15-59 in the country by promoting job opportunities and improving access to social services.
These policies will increase per capita income, savings, and investment, while boosting economic growth, he said.
A second set of policies should promote “active aging” to enhance the health, participation, and security of older people, while taking into account their rights, needs, preferences and capacities.
As countries succeed in reducing the birth rate, the percentage of elderly people typically grows, according the UNFPA.
Abdel-Ahad said challenges lie ahead for Burma to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, to reduce poverty and inequality, maternal and child mortality, the unmet need for birth spacing, and HIV among the most at-risk populations.
Minister of Immigration and Population Khin Ye told the gathering that the new Burmese government aims to achieve the Millennium Development Goals through the undertaking of various interventions as decided at the national workshop on rural development and poverty alleviation.
“In Myanmar, youth is regarded as the strength of the nation and most valued treasure,” he said. “The government is therefore paying great attention to the all-round development of our young people. While a comprehensive health programme including health education for youth is promoted nationwide, our education system will guide our young people to meet the challenges of life.”
Little world media coverage of World Population Day appeared apparent on Monday, despite the fact that population growth is considered by many as mankind’s biggest challenge. Scientists have expressed concerns that at the rate of population growth, the world will soon have difficulty feeding itself, that resources are running out, and that damage to the planet is already out of control. The UNFPA seeks education, empowerment of youth and women, and effective family planning strategies to tackle the problem. Most of the rapid growth in population is taking place in developing countries, typically wracked by poverty and insufficient education and health care.
UNFPA plans to launch the 2011 State of World Population Report in late October to highlight the challenges and opportunities of the “World at 7 Billion.”