Development experts are warning that Uganda’s high fertility rate might become an economic burden in future if action to check the population surge is not taken.
A new population report released on Wednesday shows that a Ugandan woman on average gives birth to seven children, one of the highest fertility rates not only in East Africa but also in the world.
The report entitled, ‘Population and Sustainable Development: Emerging Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects’ shows Uganda’s population is currently estimated at 32 million people but expected to hit the 103 million mark by 2050.
“At an annual growth rate of 3.2 percent, about one million people are added to the country’s already high population every year,” says the report.
It is this trend that is worrying experts who argue that the population growth is increasing at a much faster pace, making it difficult for the country to accommodate and provide for the extra numbers.
Statistics from the Finance Ministry show that with the current fertility rate, the country’s efforts to achieve and sustain Universal Primary Education will be negatively affected.
Experts indicate the number of primary school pupils will increase from 7.5 million to 18.4 million in 2037.
“As a result, the country will need more teachers, schools increasing expenditure in education,” the report adds.
The country’s health sector already faces severe human resource and infrastructure shortages and with the growing population, the number of nurses will have to be increased from 7,700 to 88,800 by 2037.
“Now, more than ever before we must work closely with the population experts to find ways of planning for and managing the ever increasing population,” said Ruth Nankabirwa, Minister of State for Finance in charge of microfinance.
“We must accept over population is a burden to our economy,” Nankabirwa added while releasing the country’s 2010 population report.
According to Population Secretariat (POPSEC), the government’s demographic department, about half of the country’s population is under the age of 18 and largely dependent on the small working population.
“This means a lot of effort and resources need to be devoted towards meeting the basic necessities to this youthful population,” POPSEC said in a statement.
The population size, structure and dynamics are reportedly having a negative impact on land and its resources.
Environmental activists argue that due to population explosion the country has lost nearly a third of its forests, in the last two decades, and could lose most of its tree cover in about 40 years unless urgent conservation measures are taken.
The country had more than five million hectares of forest in 1990, but only 3.5 million hectares remained by 2005.
United Nations Population Fund statistics show that 41 percent of women in the reproductive age bracket (15 and 49 years) who want to space or stop giving birth, cannot because of lack of contraceptives.
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