Feeding Ethiopia with family planning
July 4th 2011
Only improved funding of family planning by the west can prevent further crises.
Ten years after the last drought, Ethiopia is facing another crisis of insufficient food. Ten million people live in the affected areas. The immediate cause is erratic rainfall. Climate change may be behind this and is, in any case, expected to result in increasingly unpredictable weather patterns in the future.
However, the underlying cause is population growth. The population of Ethiopia has grown almost four fold in the fifty years since 1960, from 23 million to 83 million. Over the same period, the populations of neighbouring countries have also grown rapidly: Somalia three fold from 3 million to 9 million; Kenya five fold from 8 million to 41 million; while Djibouti has grown ten fold from 85,000 to 889,000. This growth in population counteracts improvements in agriculture or infrastructure and leaves people vulnerable when food production is disrupted by adverse natural or human events.
The UN estimates that the current Total Fertility Rate for these countries is almost five children per woman. Between one quarter and one third of married women of child-bearing age in the region would like to delay or avoid further pregnancies but do not have access to modern contraception. While universal access to reproductive health was one of the UN Millennium Development Goals, funding has stalled in recent years.
Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters commented, “It is right that we should provide disaster relief in response to humanitarian crises. However, we must also consider how best to prevent future disasters. Unless we address population growth, the scale of relief required in the future can only increase. Longer term investment in agriculture and infrastructure will not be effective unless we also fund the family planning programmes necessary to relieve the pressures of ever growing populations.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
UN Population Projections http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm
UN World Contraceptive Use http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/contraceptive2011/contraceptive2011.htm
Million for a Billion campaign http://www.millionforabillion.com/
OECD ODA estimates http://www.oecd.org/document/47/0,3746,en_2649_34665_45073519_1_1_1_1,00.html