The National Population Council (NPC), a government body, has said it has approved a plan to implement a national population strategy to reduce the fertility rate - one of the highest in the world.
Mujahed al-Shaab, head of the NPC's Population Information Department, said the NPC had prepared the plan, which will run until 2010, with the help of 22 governmental and non-governmental bodies.
"The strategy needs US$8 million to be implemented. Half of this amount would be contributed by donors and the other half by the government," he told IRIN.
He said the plan involved raising awareness about population issues by training religious and community leaders (as well participants in awareness-raising campaigns), preparing TV and radio programmes, and adding population studies to curriculums at schools, universities and other academic institutions.
Al-Shaab said the NPC aimed to reduce the current fertility rate from 6.1 to 4.0 percent by 2015. "But this depends on whether we get funds for the strategy," he said.
He pointed out that Yemen's population is increasing by 700,000 every year.
Free family planning services
Al-Shaab said efforts would be made to offer free family planning services. "Family planning efforts should run in parallel with raising awareness. Over 80 percent of the population know about family planning methods, but the problem lies in practice," he said.
He said some thought family planning would lead to health problems and that it was not allowed in Islam.
According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) office in Sanaa, Yemen's population may reach 60 million (three times the current figure) in 2050 if the high annual growth rate continues at 3.01 percent. Under this scenario 2.2 million new jobs would be needed, and there would be 14.7 million children in primary school, requiring 490,000 teachers.
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world (ranked 153 out of 177 countries in the UN Development Programmes’ Human Development Index) and specialists warn that population growth poses developmental challenges in a country which, despite booming oil revenues, imports 75 percent of its food and already suffers acute water shortages.
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