Press Releases

    Note to Correspondents

    Note No 203
    9 July 2002


    Empower - protect - educate: observing global efforts on problems
    Of poverty, population and development

    In 1989, the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recommended that 11 July be observed as World Population Day. The Day seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, particularly in the context of overall development plans and programmes, and the need to find solutions for these issues. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the patron of a series of events to celebrate the World Population Day on 11 July.

    Secretary General Kofi Annan’s message on population issues

    "The theme of this year’s World Population Day, "Reducing Poverty-Improving Reproductive Health," focuses on the role of family planning, safe motherhood and the prevention of HIV/AIDS in the global fight against the squalor and despair that plague so many members of the human family," the Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan says.

    Annan reminds that eight years ago, at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the nations of the world committed themselves to the goal of providing universal access to reproductive health services by the year of 2015 as part of a larger package aimed at empowering women, promoting gender equality, slowing and eventually stabilizing population growth, and fostering sustainable development.

    "Since then, improved levels of schooling, higher survival rates of children, and better access to reproductive health services including voluntary family planning have helped to advance the Cairo agenda," Annan points out. Birth rates are dropping faster than expected in several large developing countries, and global population growth is slowing.

    "Even though global population growth is slowing, there will still be a billion more people in the developing world by 2015. And the most rapid growth is occurring in the world’s least developed countries, where the population is expected to trip over the next 50 years from 658 million to 1.8 billion. Already, these countries are least able to provide basic services and among the most severely challenged by hunger, HIV/AIDS, water scarcity and environmental degradation," Annan warns.

    Special attention on reproductive health

    Reproductive health is central to women's life opportunities and choices. Smaller and healthier families, fewer sexually transmitted infections and safer childbirth are major benefits. Yet poverty prevents many women from seeking care. More than 350 million women worldwide do not have access to a choice of safe and affordable contraceptive methods. Reproductive health saves lives: some 500,000 women die each year from mostly preventable causes related to pregnancy and perhaps 15 times as many suffer injury or infection. The poorest mothers face the highest risk of death, as shown by statistics from 100 developing countries and countries in transition.

    Moderate success in developing countries

    UNFPA realized several successful projects in the fields of achieving equality and protecting the environment: In Guatemala a groundbreaking new social development law promotes reproductive health, sexuality education and equality. Poor women will benefit most from this collaborative effort of the Catholic and Protestant churches, NGOs and the government, with UNFPA support. In India, gender equity is a key to sustainability. Country efforts aim to increase economic opportunities, awareness of reproductive health and school enrolment for girls. Grass-roots groups like Sanjeevanis assist women to act on their own behalf and to discourage violence and rape.

    UNFPA – the largest international source of population assistance

    UNFPA helps developing countries find solutions to their population problems. It began operations in 1969 and is the largest international source of population assistance. About a quarter of all population assistance from donor nations to developing countries is channelled through UNFPA. The Fund has three main programme areas:

    1. Reproductive Health including Family Planning and Sexual Health
    2. Population and Development Strategies
    3. Advocacy

    The aim is to help ensure universal access to reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health, to all couples and individuals on or before the year 2015; to support population and development strategies that enable capacity-building in population programming; to promote awareness of population and development issues and to advocate for the mobilization of the resources and political will necessary to accomplish its areas of work.

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