Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9, 2012 5:00 PM--Population Growth

Uganda has one of the fastest growing populations in the world.  Over the past 20 years the population has doubled and it is estimated that each Ugandan woman, on average, has 6 children, while the average worldwide is about 2.  It is estimated that by 2050 Uganda’s population will nearly triple from what it is now making it the 19th most population country in the world.  19th most populated may not sound like much but consider this: it is only the size of Oregon and it is currently only the 37th most populated country in the world.  That’s quite a jump!

You may be wondering why Uganda is like this opposed to other countries.  Well, the reasons are many:

1.) Ugandans do not believe in or understand the use of contraceptives or family planning.  In fact, only 20% of Ugandan women of child bearing age have access to contraceptives.
2.) Having many children is a sign of wealth.  If you have many children then you must be able to support many children, therefore you must have a lot of money.  Unfortunately the reality is just the opposite.  Many people have a lot of children to make people think they are wealthy but in reality they can’t actually support all those children.
3.) In many cases, more children means more free labor for things like farming.
4.) The more children you have the better, because then there are more people to take care of you when you are old.  Uganda has no such thing as social security, so when people get old they need to have family to rely on to support them.
5.) Many government officials even promote having larger families and many children.  President Museveni has even referred to the population explosion as a “great resource”.

And the list goes on…

This may not seem like a problem.  Many of these reasons may seem like legitimate reasons to have a lot of children.  So why should Ugandans have smaller families?

As I said before, many of these people who are having such large families can’t support them.  Many children grow up male nourished and under-educated because their parents can’t afford the right food for them or pay for their school fees. 

Also, Uganda is simply not equipped to handle that many children.  Currently half of the population is under 18 years old.  The education system is not able to handle as many children as there are.  For this reason, many children do not get educated.  Under-educated children grow up and continue the cycle of having many children that they can’t support.  Health centers can’t handle the number of people that come in each day.  Many health centers even turn people away telling them to come back tomorrow and hopefully they will get the care they need.

Overall, the quality of life seems to decline as the population explodes.  Luckily there are some things promoted here that indirectly help to limit the population growth.  First is the girl child education.  Anyone or any school (especially all-girls schools) that promote female education help to limit the population growth.  This is because if the girls are in school they are less likely to marry young and have a million babies at such a young age.  This is why things like Camp GLOW are so important here.  Another thing that tends to help limit the birth rate is HIV/AIDS awareness.  People are made aware of how HIV is spread and how to prevent it.  By preventing the spread of HIV, people are also limiting the risk of unexpected pregnancy.

So, I think a lot of times the population growth here in Uganda can be attributed to cultural principles.  But through other means we can try to limit the explosion that is anticipated in the next 30 years.  Population growth may be one of the biggest problems here, but it is one of the most under-emphasized.

Here are some articles about Uganda’s population growth and the world population projections that you may find interesting:

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