ISTANBUL—Investments in young people, women’s empowerment and reproductive health, including family planning, are critical to boosting least developed countries’ productive capacity and speeding their escape from poverty, according to a new report by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
The report, “Population Dynamics and Poverty in the LDCs: Challenges and Opportunities for Development and Poverty Reduction”, says that the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs) have a large and rapidly growing youth population, with some 60 per cent of their population under the age of 25.
These young people, it adds, can drive economic growth and poverty reduction if they enjoy health, education and employment. Further, investments in young girls, often overlooked, could provide a significant development dividend, says the report.
“Empowering women and girls starts with improved access to reproductive health care and family planning,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s Executive Director. “Too many teenage girls become mothers, too many die giving birth, too many drop out of school, too many are abused and discriminated against in their daily lives.”
“When girls are educated, healthy and can avoid child marriage, unintended pregnancy and HIV, they can contribute fully to their societies’ battles against poverty,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “In a world of 7 billion, every person, especially women and girls, should enjoy human rights and human dignity, and have the opportunity to make the most of their potential.”
“Investing in reproductive health services would empower women to decide the spacing and number of their children and increase their opportunities for employment, thereby helping their national economies,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “The investments would also reduce maternal death and lead to smaller families with more resources to pour into the health and education of each child. This virtuous cycle helps families, communities and nations escape poverty.”
World population is projected to reach 7 billion on 31 October, of which 855 million will be living in the LDCs, many of which continue facing large challenges in achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The LDCs are lagging in reducing infant, child and maternal death and HIV prevalence. This is strongly related to lack of reproductive health care, including family planning, according to the report.
Due to high fertility, the population of the LDCs is expected to double to 1.7 billion between now and 2050. Rapid population expansion in the LDCs makes it harder for countries to increase or maintain per-capita spending on essential services, such as health and education, according to the new report.