View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Saturday, July 11, 2009

World Population Day in the Emirates

World Population Day
Today, July 11, is the 20th annual World Population Day which is intended to raise awareness of global population issues.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the global population will reach 9.1 billion by 2050. That's 36% more than today's population, and scientists say that the potential impact on food, climate, poverty and health will be massive.

World Population Concerns in the UAE
One wonders how World Population challenges will be viewed in the Emirates where there is a national concern to lift the indigenous population and where a family of six children is considered to be an optimum size.

The UAE government provides financial support for parents producing children but more than this, children in Islam are seen as a blessing from Allah so ‘the more the merrier.’

Not so if children are born into grinding poverty and do not get the food needed to grow and the education to develop as healthy, fulfilled children.

Our Mission
The mission of the UNFPA includes promoting “the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity” so it is primarily concerned with quality of life not simply curbing numbers.

2009 Thrust
This year’s theme is ‘Educating Girls to End Poverty’.

There are over 600 million girls in the developing world and approximately 25% of them are not enrolled in school. Furthermore, the girls that do enrol, rarely make it through secondary school.
Poor families viewing the value of the dowry are often tempted to encourage young daughters to marry young instead of keeping them in school. Consequently one girl in seven in developing countries marries before the age of 15 and as many as 50% become mothers before the age of 18.

Educating to Combat Poverty
Statistics reveal that when girls are encouraged to stay longer in formal education, they marry later, are more informed about birth control and they have less children. They are usually opened up to better employment opportunities, their incomes are raised and their wellbeing grows through their sense of being empowered.

Smart Investment
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, of the United Nations Population Fund said in her statement about the 2009 World Population Day:

“Investing in women and girls during the global financial crisis will help set the stage for economic recovery and reduce inequality and poverty, according to “There is no smarter investment in troubled times.”

“Women and girls were the majority of the world’s poor, even before the current financial crisis, said Ms. Obaid. “Now, they are falling deeper into poverty and face increased health risks, especially if they are pregnant.”

Health Rights
For World Population Day, she added, “I call on all leaders to make the health and rights of women a political and development priority.”

In developing countries, women’s health has critical economic importance. Women are more than half the agricultural labour force. They grow 80 per cent of staple crops in Africa, and in South-east Asia, 90 per cent of rice growers are women.

Ban Ki-Moon’s Endorsement
In a separate statement, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on decision-makers to “protect women’s ability to earn income, keep their daughters in school, and obtain reproductive health information and services, including voluntary family planning.

“Together,” added Mr. Ban, “let us advance the rights of women and girls, and empower them as highly productive members of society capable of contributing to economic recovery and growth. There can be no better investment on this day or any other.”

Empowering the Emirates
It is good to see UAE leaders setting a high value on education. This has particular significance for women and it is crucial that they have the encouragement to learn and express their skills in the work force and in decision making at all levels of society.

Such a day gives cause to reflect and consider how girls might be helped in poorer countries to be educated and empowered to make a difference.

The UAE at a Glance (2009) estimated the 2009 population of the country to be 5.06 million. Check this report (p6) for population details.

Dr Geoff Pound

Contact Geoff on email at geoffpound(at) and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: UNFPA - because everyone counts