UNFPA concern over Kiribati overpopulation
The United Nations Population Fund has been in talks with the Kiribati government this week about ways to curb what it calls concerning population growth.
The United Nations Population Fund is in talks with the Kiribati government about ways to curb what it calls concerning population growth.
Kiribati has a population of 103,000, with a growth rate of 2.1 percent - about 2,000 births and a natural death rate of 400 to 500 annually.
The UNFPA Pacific director, Laurent Zessler, says the government is dedicated to addressing the issue, and a new committee on the management of population and development is a good first step.
But he told Mary Baines the solution lies in educating people about the benefits of contraception and smaller family sizes.
LAURENT ZESSLER: They have to link very much, you know, how to best address the issue of right sizing of family in Kiribati. On average, women have 4 to 5 children. So we think, the United Nations Population Fund thinks, that it will be better to reach the families, to explain to the families in Kiribati that they have to better plan and take into consideration the number of children they are planning to have. This implies also to make better access to contraceptive and also to really work with each community in Kiribati to address this issue of rapid population growth. As you know, the land of Kiribati is limited, you know, there's climate change. We feel that it would be better that the authorities will sensitise the population of having the right size family.
MARY BAINES: Kiribati has some of the poorest access to family planning and contraceptive services in the Pacific. Do you think that the government is doing enough to introduce better services?
LZ: There's a commitment from the government, from the President himself, from the Minister of Health, from several community leaders, including on the outer islands, on Christmas Island as well. But we feel it is not easy to increase the contraceptive use. Due to the structure of society you really have to convince each community that they have to address this issue. So you have to include the man, they discuss with their partner or their wife how to best plan the right size family. The access to television is limited, they have a radio system, but you need really to go I would say door to door, really to address this at the smallest level in the community, with the community leaders in each part of Kiribati. The right number of contraceptive commodities are present but of course we need to increase the intake, we need to have more people considering modern family planning methods.
MB: There has been some opposition to family planning efforts by the Catholic church. Do you think those attitudes are beginning to change and if they are influencing government action?
LZ: I think there is some positive developments. I have been very stunned by it, by several leaders in Kiribati. Different religious groups, including the Catholic church, understand that this population growth, rapid population growth, is very worrisome for the future of Kiribati. I would say that in practical terms there is an understanding, there is not opposition that would impair the government to carry out the activities related to better access to contraceptive.
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