Ghanaian experts raise concerns at population conference
Presentations by two Ghanaian experts at the just ended African Regional Conference on Population and Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, generated far-reaching discussions among delegates.
The two, Dr Sylvia Deganus, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist Specialist and Professor Stephen Kwankye of the Regional Institute of Population Studies (RIPS), University of Ghana, were among a panel of experts who made presentations on various topics at the experts’ segment of the five-day conference.
Speaking on the topic: ‘The Unfinished Business: Family Planning & Maternal Health in a Context of Gender Inequality’, Dr Deganus said even though progress has been made, the maternal mortality rate in South Sahara Africa, which is 41 per cent, still remains dismal.
According to her, the women who die needlessly because of complications during pregnancy and childbirth represent a staggering 56 per cent of the global total.
Dr Deganus said, ‘In 2012, an estimated 162,000 women in sub-Saharan Africa died from pregnancy and birth-related causes; 62,000 of these women did not want to become pregnant in the first place.’
Maternal health complications, she further stated, can have catastrophic effects on household expenditure as poor households with maternal health complications spend 30 to 40 per cent of their savings to cover expenses.
In addition, maternal mortality has a negative effect on GDP, she said and explained that a single maternal death was found to reduce per capita GDP by US$ 0.36 per year.
Furthermore, women make up 70 per cent of Africa’s labour force and produce 80 per cent of food; therefore, maternal deaths and disabilities are a direct cost to the economy.
She indicated that it had been proven that when empowered economically and socially, women take charge of their own live. She, therefore, called on African governments to formulate and implement policies that would provide economic opportunities for women.
Touching on the youth, Dr Deganus said the population of youth aged between 15 and 24, is expected to reach 200 million in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015.
‘Their ability to make healthy and informed decisions about sexuality, childbearing and birth spacing now will yield the desired high returns in the region well beyond 2014,’ she emphasised.
To achieve this, however, requires strategic approaches of education, improving access to sexual and reproductive health care, including maternity care, family planning, abortion care.
There is the urgent need for social and economic programmes focused on this generation, she added.
Giving a presentation the topic: ‘International Migration and the Achievement of Africa’s Development Goals,’ Prof. Kwankye said the key drivers of international migration in Africa are economic, socio-cultural, environmental and political factors.
Irrespective of which of these factors are at play, he said, perceived and real global and regional differences in levels of wealth and human development between poorer and richer societies have constituted the main rationale behind people’s quest to migrate.
Prof. Kwankye emphasised that as countries in Africa envision harnessing the demographic dividend set in motion by ongoing demographic transitions in many of the countries, patterns and trends in international migration would be a key development planning issue.
‘Reaping the benefits will, however, depend on how Africa manages international migration within and outside the region through the adoption and effective implementation of comprehensive policy actions in addressing the challenges while maximising the benefits for its development,’ he stated.
He noted that International migration of African women is on the rise as a result of increased female education and skill acquisition, and stressed the need for countries where the migrants originate from to enforce gender-related laws to protect the rights of women, regardless of the geographical location.
Gender roles, he explained, are fast changing and are expected to provide further boost to women’s empowerment but if not managed well, could result in availability of more single parents, which in turn could affect family formation and child development.
By Rosemary Ardayfio/Daily Graphic/Ghana
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