Aid yes, but also limit population

18 October 2013 | Leicester Mercury

(Headline by Leicester Mercury)

“Aid works” writes Dr Simon Bennett (First person September 27). It certainly does. But the benefit will be temporary only unless population growth is controlled as well. All the troubled countries Mr Bennett mentions – Somalia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Syria – are part of that large region – Africa plus the Middle East from Palestine to Pakistan – where, in most countries, there is little attempt to control population growth.

Three thousand million and rising is the number to keep in mind when thinking about this region. This is the estimated population of the region in 2050. (The number comes from the United Nations 2012 revision, their medium variant.) Three thousand million – three billion – is the same as the population of the whole world in 1960, and is ten times the population of the region in 1950. A world changing demographic drama.

There is one beacon of light, and that is Iran, where the fertility rate fell from 5.62 children per woman in 1985-1990 to 1.89 in 2005-2010. This was done by the provision of virtually free family planning, with pro-active health workers and clinics in most localities, encouragement from the government and from religious leaders, teaching about population matters in schools, and lessons on family planning for both men and women before marriage.

If all the countries of the region followed Iran’s example, there would be no failed states and the region would be on its way to prosperity and peace. In the meantime, while we urge governments to follow Iran’s example, we need to continue our aid: even the temporary relief of hunger is wonderful.

Gerald Danaher