More than 140 countries will observe World Population Day on July 11 with events that focus on family planning as key to maternal and newborn survival, to the well-being of future generations and to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"Forty years ago, world leaders proclaimed that individuals have a basic right to determine freely and responsibly the number and timing of their children," noted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a statement. "Millennium Development Goal 5, improving maternal health, affirms this right and yet shows the least progress to date." He called on all governments to honor commitments made since 1994 to provide universal access to reproductive health care, including family planning information and services.
World Population Day was first declared in 1987, when Earth had 5 billion people. Today humans number 6.4 billion, and we will be 7 billion by 2012. The figure could be 12 billion by 2050 if contraceptive use does not increase, according to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
"When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life," said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid "Family planning is also an effective means in the fight against poverty." A family can make sure it has resources to feed, clothe and fully educate each child, while women can be assured of the time they need to educate themselves and to earn a living. Access to family planning could also reduce women’s deaths and disabilities from pregnancy-related complications by about one-third, saving millions of lives, Obaid noted.
More than 200 million couples now have an unmet need for contraceptives, she said. The need is expected to rise 40 percent in the next 15 years as population rises, awareness grows and condom use increases against HIV/AIDS.
Population Day observances worldwide will include seminars, celebrity appearances, concerts, dramatic presentations and many other events highlighting the essential role of family planning in reducing poverty, promoting development and saving the lives of mothers and newborns.
Obaid called on world governments to ensure universal access to reproductive health care by 2015 and to "back up this promise with political commitment and financial investment. It is time to make reproductive health a priority," she said.
For more information, visit http://www.unfpa.org/wpd/index.html