Accra, March 17, GNA - Ghana's current population of about 19 million people would double in the next 26 years if measures were not put in place to control the fast rate at which it is growing, Dr. Emmanuel Tawiah, of the Population Impact Project (PIP), University of Ghana said on Friday.
With the average population growth rate of 2.7 for the regions, Ghana would not be able to cope with the current population issues with its limited resources. Dr Tawiah gave the intercensal growth rate by region per annum from 1984 to 2000 as 4.4 for Greater Accra, 3.4 for Ashanti, 3.2 for Western, 2.8 for North, 2.5 for Brong-Ahafo, 2.1 for Central, 1.7 for Upper West, 1.4 for Eastern and 1.1 for Upper East.
"With all these figures, we are unable to cope with the present situation and yet people are just adding on and to prevent any serious problem in future, we should be prepared with resources to back the problems that would come up".
Speaking at a day's seminar for Parliamentary Caucus on Population and Development organized by the National Population Council (NPC), Dr Tawiah said problems such as lack of access to education; quality health care and human resource would be seriously affected if the population rate were not controlled. The annual population growth rate is about 3.0 per cent, total fertility rate at 5.5 per cent and infant mortality rate at 66 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Dr Tawiah also mentioned urbanization, the youthful nature of the Ghanaian population, uneven population distribution, several settlements with more than 1000 population, internal migration and ethnic conflict over land as some of the major challenges to population. He noted that the Ghana Statistical Service for 2002 and 2000 Population and Housing Census Summary Report had indicated that 31 per cent of the males aged six had access to primary school and 2.4 to the tertiary institution.
The same report said 29.1 per cent of females had access to primary education and 1.6 to the tertiary institution. "The figures explain that more males get educated even to the tertiary level than their fellow females and more girls are educated, they are in a better position to take control of their sexual lives and this will bring down the increase in population and other related problems would decrease". He noted that government should be able to create more schools equipped with furniture, train more teachers, make available in abundant learning and teaching materials as well as provide equipped health care facilities.
Dr. Tawiah called for the need for more females to be educated, promote the use of contraceptives, build more resources, efficient use of available resources, revisit issues of cultural and religious beliefs that hinder the use of various forms of family planning and education with girls going beyond secondary school level. He called for the need for parliamentarians to be population advocates to ensure the provision of more resources for the NPC to carry out public sensitisation on population issues.
Mr. Steve Grey of NPC said the revised National Population Policy of 1994 targeted to reduce annual population rate of 3.0 per cent to 1.5 per cent by the year 2020 and reduce total fertility rate from 5.0 per cent births to 3.0 per woman by 2020. Infant mortality rate would also be reduced from 44 per 1,000 live births to 22 live births by 2020.
He said the policy was also targeted to increase life expectancy from about 58 years to 65 years by the 2010 and to 70 by the year 2020, increase proportion of females with secondary education and higher education to 80 per cent by the year 2020. "The policy will also ensure that maternal mortality rate is reduced from 214 per 100,000 live births to 55 by the 2020." He outlined integrating population factors into development planning process at the district levels, review of cultural and religious practices that impede the effective implementation of population programmes and gender concerns about the girl child education and their retention in schools as some of the challenges facing the council and called on MPs to promulgate laws that would support the realization of the policy objectives.
Mrs Esther Apewokin, Executive Director of NPC urged the MPs to participate in population activities to lend political weight to population programmes and also advocate for more resources to be allocated for co-ordination of population programmes. Naa Professor John Nabila, Director of PIP, University of Ghana, who presided stressed the need for parliamentarians to be abreast with population issues to contribute more in the house when such issues appear before them.
He appealed to them to see the importance of population issues "because all of you would like to have a constituency that well develop with population having access to quality health services, schools and low unemployment as well as low poverty levels". Members of Parliament assured NPC that they would do their best to ensure that all the targets and goals of NPC's policy were met.