Investing in the health and education of our youth as world population reaches 7 billion

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) report – The State of World Population 2011 – notes that the record population size of 7 billion can be viewed in many ways as a success for humanity because it means people are living longer and more children are surviving worldwide. But not everyone has benefited from this achievement or the higher quality of life that this implies.

Great disparities exist among and within countries and in rights and opportunities between men and women, girls and boys, as evidenced by the fact that that 215 million women of child-bearing age in developing countries lack access to voluntary family planning, while millions of adolescent girls and boys there have little access to sex education and information on how to prevent pregnancies or protect themselves from HIV.

The Reproductive Health Bill

Family planning—whether using natural or artificial methods—can reduce maternal deaths by promoting safer timing of pregnancies or enabling mothers who do not want to get pregnant anymore to fulfill their wishes. A non-pregnant woman has zero risk of complications and maternal death. Skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric and neonatal care can reduce maternal deaths by providing proper, life-saving interventions to women who do want to get pregnant, or those who get pregnant unintentionally. Humane treatment and counseling for women with post-abortion complications will enable health practitioners to promote and provide natural or artificial family planning so that abortions—which cause a significant proportion of maternal deaths—are minimized if not eliminated. Sexuality education in schools will reduce or delay sexual experimentation among young people, thereby reducing unintended pregnancies and the risk of maternal complications and death.

Combining available National Statistics Office (NSO) data on fertility rates and the female population of reproductive age with the new National Statistical Coordination Board ( NSCB ) estimate, the number of maternal deaths in 2010 falls within the range of 2,370 to 4,067 or an average of 6.5 to 11.1 deaths per day (see statistics tables for details).

Whether the exact figure is at the lower, central or upper part of the estimate, the important point is to responsibly create policies that would eliminate preventable maternal deaths. Low to high income countries have shown this to be doable. Falsely accusing RH advocates of using outdated data, quibbling about the numbers or callously asking for death certificates as proof will only obstruct the crafting of workable solutions to maternal deaths.

What does the future hold for the globe’s newest citizens as we reach another milestone?

Of the world’s 7 billion, 1.8 billion are young people between the ages of 10 and 24, he noted. “Young people hold the key to the future, with the potential to transform the global political landscape and to propel economies through their creativity and capacities for innovation.

“But the opportunity to realize youth’s great potential must be seized now. We should be investing in the health and education of our youth. This would yield enormous returns in economic growth and development for generations to come.”

One of the report’s authors, Barbara Crossette, who carried out field reporting from the slums of India to the barren steppes of Ethiopia, discounted the birth of the world’s 7 billionth inhabitant as symbolic.

“The figure of 7 billion is really irrelevant to many people, and most of all to women in the developing world where seven pregnancies is a much more significant number… They [women] have really been let down in many ways by the world,” she told a news conference in New York, stressing that some governments are not supporting of family planning and other efforts.

Senator Sotto’s manner of belittling maternal deaths contributes nothing and is a grave insult to the millions of mothers who yearly face risks to give new life.

Ensure every child is wanted and every birth is safe.

The clock is ticking.
1 day to 7 billion.