Tough challenge

The population of Nepal is increasing rapidly. An estimated 2128 persons are born and 622 die every day. Should the current population growth rate of 2.5 per cent remain stagnant, the number of people in the country will double in another 31 years. The economic growth rate, on the other hand, is short of the required rate to take care of the numerical explosion unless it too takes a leap, which judging by the present day political climate and vital economic indicators is highly unlikely. Besides, the shortage of contraceptives in coming years is being predicted to hit the country hard, unless of course the aid-dependent mechanism gets a shot in the arm from the donors. Even so 28 per cent of the demand for contraceptives remains unfulfilled at present. By 2008, the fund needed for contraceptives is expected to top $10.4 million and there is already a shortfall of $6.14 million. Even though the use of contraceptives at present stands at a modest 39 per cent, the scarcity of funds will complicate the equation already skewed in favour of population explosion.

An upsurge in population alone without adequate growth in infrastructure for the coming generations to rely on will mean greater numbers of mouths to feed, unsatisfactory living standards, rising unemployment and a plethora of socio-economic problems. Under such a scenario, bigger population would become an economic liability for the country. This is also an indication that enough is not being done to raise public awareness, influence people’s behavioural and communication aspects and educate the masses about the benefits of raising smaller, healthier and economically viable families. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in his message to mark the World Population Day recently, has rightly asked one and all to empower women and girls and show commitment to gender equality and support services to improve and protect women’s health. Educated and empowered women are likely to raise smaller, healthier and educated families, an effective recipe for poverty alleviation. The scourge of HIV/AIDS is a cause for concern which will exact a greater price in future. The shortage of contraceptives, primarily condoms, will thus have to be addressed. Population explosion will prove a difficult challenge in future unless adequate steps are taken to halt it now.