DORIS KASOTE, Mongu
WORLD Population Day (WPD) is an annual event, observed on July 11, which seeks to raise awareness of global population issues. The event was established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1989.
Zambia joined the rest of the world in commemorating this important day with the celebrations having taken place in Mongu, Western Province.
This yearâ€™s theme is: â€œVulnerable populations in emergenciesâ€. This is because the world has seen several record number of people displaced by crises.
As the world population edged to seven billion people in 2011 (up from 2.5 billion in 1950), it has had profound implications for development. A world of seven billion is both a challenge and an opportunity with implications on sustainability, urbanisation, access to health services and youth empowerment.
In 1989, in its decision 89/46, the Governing Council of the UNDP recommended that, to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues in the context of overall development plans and programmes and the need to find solutions for these issues, July 11 should be observed by the international community as WPD.
The world is seeing a record number of people displaced by crises – some 60 million according to the latest UN figures. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) works in emergency settings around the globe to respond to the rights and needs of women and girls, helping them maintain their dignity, securing their safety, and restoring their access to sexual and reproductive health care.
The WPD was established by the Governing Council of the UNDP to focus public attention on the issue of population growth. Schools, businesses, and organisations around the world are urged to observe July 11 with speeches, programmes, and activities that address population issues and encourage people to think of solutions to the health, social, and economic problems associated with population growth. The WPD is an outgrowth of the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on July 11, 1987, to mark the approximate date when the worldâ€™s population reached five billion.
The commemoration in Mongu saw various activities which included a march past, song and dance as well as reciting of poems by school going children.
The event was flagged off by Western Province deputy Permanent Secretary Bernard Chomba who also took part in the march past together with youths and professionals.
Zambiaâ€™s population is now slightly above 14 million and any population is both an opportunity and a challenge. A population has implications on development.
Zambia needs not only actively participate in these celebrations but also address solutions to several of the population issues.
Mr Chomba said the day offers a moment for deeper reflection. â€œWe need to reflect on what we have achieved and what we want to achieve for our population. It is also a moment for us to appreciate and celebrate several of our partners, such as the UNFPA, who make great and unconditional sacrifices in stabilising out population.â€
Government and its co-operating partners, continues to invest in key areas. These key areas include reproductive health, fighting early marriages and early pregnancies and HIV and AIDS.
Government also promotes equal access to education and work for girls and promoting favourable human rights and poverty eradication.
Mr Chomba notes that Government aspires for a prosperous Zambia that could provide for the whole population, it is not wonder not a wonder that Government puts the development of the country as a priority in strategic areas of education, health, transport and communications.
Meanwhile, UNFPA programme manager Elizabeth Kalunga noted that as Zambia celebrated this day, the significant advancements made in improving the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls, which is evidenced by a reduction in maternal mortality rates from 726 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002 to 398 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014.
Ms Kalunga who was speaking on behalf of the UNFPA country representative Mary Otieno said, â€œIt is important that we collectively sustain these gains with intensifies actions-including ensuring the dignity, safety and reproductive health for all women and girls at all times during emergencies and in humanitarian contextsâ€.
UNFPA reaffirmed its commitment to sustaining its partnership with government at all levels. This will ensure that the dignity of vulnerable populations equitable access to sexual and reproductive health.
Chanda Mwewa, 15, said children are vulnerable and need efforts from stakeholders for them to enjoy a dignified life.
Lizzie Sililo, a trader said whenever a country experiences a crisis, women and children are the most affected. This is why steps should be taken to safeguard their well-being.
She was however, appreciative of the efforts that government and stakeholders are making in trying to protect women and children.
DORIS KASOTE, Mongu