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McClatchy Series Examines Africa’s Population

McClatchy published a three-part series examining the “population boom” in Africa. Summaries appear below.

  • One article looks at the relationship between Africa’s rising population and poverty. “Although it’s frequently portrayed as a continent decimated by epidemics, starvation and war, Africa is gripped by one of the greatest population explosions ever recorded. Over the past 60 years, while birth rates in the rest of the developing world declined by half, Africa’s population quadrupled to 1 billion, an epic baby boom that threatens to trap a generation of children in poverty and strangle economic progress across the world’s neediest continent,” according to McClatchy. The article continues: “On a continent in which most people still grow the food they eat, will population growth create impossible demands on agriculture and ravage the environment as families try to extract ever more from the land? Or will nations adapt, build schools, health systems and economies to match their growing numbers, and avert disaster?”
  • Another article focuses on the U.S. policy on Africa and family planning: “Promoting birth control in Africa faces a host of obstacles – patriarchal customs, religious taboos, ill-equipped public health systems – but experts also blame a powerful, more distant force: the U.S. government,” which under President George W. Bush “withdrew from its decades-long role as a global leader in supporting family planning.” According to McClatchy, although PEPFAR is “widely hailed as a success … researchers, Africa experts and veteran U.S. health officials now think that PEPFAR also contributed to Africa’s epidemic population growth by undermining efforts to help women in some of the world’s poorest countries exercise greater control over their fertility.” The article notes that “President Barack Obama has begun to roll back some of the restrictions. In a sharp turnaround, the administration has called family planning ‘an important component of the preventive-care package of services’ for HIV patients.” After more than a decade of flat funding, Congress in March “raised global family-planning funding by 18 percent, to $545 million,” McClatchy writes.
  • The third article in the series examines how child marriage fuels population growth. “As Africa experiences one of the greatest population explosions ever recorded, millions of girls are forced into leaving the classroom and marrying early, often to ease the financial strains on their large families. By jump-starting their own child-bearing years, experts say, these young brides become trapped in a cycle of poverty, expose themselves to grave health risks and contribute to a baby boom that’s already adding a child to the continent every second,” McClatchy reports. Child marriage “troubles researchers, who’ve found that girls who stay in school through their teenage years bear fewer and healthier children, reduce their susceptibility to childbirth injuries and are more likely to give their children more education.” The article also looks at gender discrepancies in education. “Two-thirds of girls [in sub-Saharan Africa] attend primary schools, according to U.N. figures, but fewer than a third go on to high school, the lowest rate of any region in the world” (Bengali, 12/13). 

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