Middle East and North Africa
October 15, 2013
In Syria thousands of people have been killed and two million have crossed over into Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey. In fact, the population of Lebanon has increased 25%. CARE predicts that half of Syria's 22 million citizens will be displaced or in need of assistance by the end of the year.
75% of the displaced people in and around Syria are women and children, many of whom will be sexually assaulted during the conflict. For women who become pregnant as a result of rape have few options, with abortion being illegal, and hundreds of thousands of women from the region undergo unsafe abortions every year, putting women's life and health at risk.
Unfortunately U.S. law, under the 1973 Helms Amendment, restricts the use of our humanitarian assistance from providing abortion care, even if women have been raped.
In cultures around the world, women who are raped may have been brutally attacked in her own home by an enemy soldier, or exploited by a teacher or relative, but societies continue to see women, implicitly or explicitly, at fault. It has been reported that the Syrian government soldiers will rape female relatives in front of prisoners in order to torture men accused of opposing the government.
Leading humanitarian organizations like the International Rescue Committee are legally barred from providing safe and compassionate abortion services as part of their emergency medical services, leaving victims to compound their trauma either with a forced pregnancy and motherhood, or an unsafe abortion risking death and injury.
One out of 7 girls marry before age 18 in the Arab region. Families believe it is in the girls' best interest, not realizing that they are violating their daughters' human rights. Girls who marry early usually have to quit school, endure unwanted sexual relations, and have children soon after marriage, even if their bodies are not ready for it. They are generally more vulnerable to spousal violence and end up in a cycle of poverty, low education, high fertility, and poor health. These conditions hinder societies' economic and social development. Sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia are the regions with the highest rate of child marriage.
It has become a global commitment to end child marriage. The International Day of the Girl Child was inaugurated on Oct. 11, 2012 to put girls' rights at the center of development efforts.
In the Arab region, the highest rates occur in Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and South Sudan. In these same countries the annual per capita incomes in 2011 was less than US$2,000. Over one-third of the girls marry in these countries marry before age 18. In contrast, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya seldom see child marriages. Egypt, the most populous Arab country, has the most child brides.
Iran leaders are concerned that its low population growth rate, estimated at 1% by the United Nations in 2011, will foster an aging population with potentially disastrous consequences for its workforce, public health infrastructure and social security network. Their goal is to return to traditionally large Iranian families while ensuring a robust workforce in the next half-century.
However, young Iranian adults are concerned with unemployment, high inflation, a plummeting currency and the possibility of war with Israel. Iran's per capita gross domestic product is only about $6,400, according to the International Monetary Fund.
An example is Somayeh who insisted that she and her husband wait to have a child until they could move out of their rundown flat, with intermittent electricity and leaky ceilings, in a dangerous part of Tehran.
Another woman, Firoozeh, estimated the cost of giving birth, including doctor and hospital fees, at about $3,000 USD. "The costs of having a child are so high that I'm ready to use any method in order to not have children right now,"she said, adding: "My husband and I love children and are working as hard as we can to improve our situation so we can have them."
Young Iranian women now have greater independence and choices. About 60% of Iranian college students are women, and experts say rising career and educational aspirations for women in the last three decades have contributed to the sharp fall in fertility. Firoozeh waited until she turned 31 to get married.
Iran's fertility rate is 1.7. The UN predicts the median age will be 40 by 2030
Advocates of the new population growth policies say the aim is to return to traditionally large Iranian families while ensuring a robust workforce in the next half-century. Iran should eventually have 150 million people, double the current population, they say.
Gerhard Heilig, a population trends expert at the United Nations, said "The decline in fertility, when it's so low, has really nothing to do with official policies usually," he said. "This is a lifestyle choice and once people have made this lifestyle choice it's very difficult to reverse it."
The government's current strategy is comprised of stopping the population control programs and increasing financial incentives to get married and have children. A parliamentary committee is considering measures such as free medical treatment for pregnant women and increasing maternity leave. Loans, gold coins and cheap housing could be considered for families who have more children.
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an economist at Virginia Tech University in the United States, said the new policies may make a difference for poorer families, for whom the cost of birth control is a more significant part of their budget or for whom financial incentives might be more important.
He predicted the measures were not likely to work with the wider population, however, citing the failure of initiatives like the promise of payment in 2010 for each newborn of one million tomans, at the time worth about $1,000. "A million tomans is nothing for a family to change their behavior," he said.
In the Persian Gulf oil monarchies the trend for child-brides has almost disappeared. The latest statistics reveal that Abu Dhabi's (UAE) inhabitants now marry after their twentieth birthday - men at an average age of 26.5, and women at 25.9. The rise in the marriage age is attributed to the improved economy arising from the discovery of oil, which allowed for investment in facilities and infrastructure as well as in education and in additional empowerment among residents. It is mainly attributed to the higher literacy rates among its citizens, with a higher attendance recorded in both secondary and university education, and for the sheikhs adopting a policy of inserting women in all productive spheres, both administrative and political . Nowadays, it's the women's father themselves who want an education and career for their daughters before seeing them married.
One third of girls in countries throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia get married before reaching the legal age, according to the U.N. Among the Arab-Muslim countries, Yemen has the largest number of child-brides, with over 40% of women marrying before the eighteenth birthday. In Saudi Arabia mature men marrying girls as young as nine and ten years of age. This conservative tradition is being challenged by a growing number of citizens of Saudi Arabian countries, as well as by a number of international organizations.
The topics of contraception and sexual education are largely avoided in many Muslim countries. And many countries in the Middle East have laws against the purchase of oral contraceptive pills.
However, the Holy Quran does permit contraception as long as both partners consent, it's not permanent, and it doesn't cause bodily harm. Education is needed in order to change the perception of policy makers, and this education needs to be respectful of their traditional values while reassuring them of the benefits of making contraception available to young people.
Middle Eastern traditions and Shariah (Islamic) law dictate that pre-marital sex (even between consenting adults above the age of 18) is punishable by law. This often brands all contraceptive methods as instruments for having sex out of marriage. The uses, risks, and contraindications are not discussed and are unknown to adult women. The general view is that these topics promote sexual behavior among unmarried men and women.
Doctors are an exception and can provide contraceptive advice to married couples. Unmarried men and women have no access to contraceptive knowledge and are at risk of unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Unmarried pregnant women may even attempt suicide when they feel they have no options.
Also, emergency contraception is not widely available, which has led to an alarming rise in cases of fake and often dangerous pills that are purchased online.
Progress in introducing the topics of contraception and sex education may be slow, but every step forward is significant.The significance of providing contraception and improving overall healthcare must be linked. Experts will impart knowledge and train peer educators, to construct policies and to negotiate with government agencies.
Basic awareness-raising can begin through the Friday Islamic congregational prayer and the sermons, while keeping the Islamic law according to the Quran and Hadith in the forefront.
Peer educators also need to be selected on the basis of sex, nationality, language, and communication skills so they can be specifically tailored for specific groups, particularly with the men and women separately.
Feedback from participants is also important to help educators improve their teaching, answer the relevant questions, and dispel the common myths and misconceptions about contraception. Social media and the internet can also serve this purpose.
August 24, 2012, New Straits Times
Farshid Yezdani of the Union for Protection of Children's Rights said some 713 marriages for children under 10 were registered in the country in 2010, twice than that recorded over the last three years.
The number of marriages for girls in the 10-15 age range could be more, since only about 55% of child marriages are registered in cities and 45% in villages.
August 05, 2012, RH Reality Check
Political Research Associates have released a report, Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, which documents the U.S. Christian Right's attempts to push an ideology hostile to reproductive and LGBT rights on sub-Saharan African countries.
For example, in Tanzania in 2008, billboards depicted a "Faithful Condom User" as a skeleton in a blatant attempt to discourage condom use as an effective HIV prevention method. The billboard's sponsor was Human Life International (HLI), a Roman Catholic organization group based in the United States.
HLI is staunchly opposed to contraception, abortion, stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, sex education, and homosexuality. Another U.S. Christian Right group peddling corrosive reproductive politics in Africa is Family Watch International, a small Arizona-based group, which condemns the United Nations' efforts to support family planning services and reproductive health options for women. One of the groups claims is that vaccine distribution is really a secret sterilization program designed to destroy the African family.
Abortion is already illegal in most African countries, bans first passed decades ago under colonial governments, and even where there are some exceptions the complications of the law often drive women to obtain illegal and dangerous procedures, such as "drinking surf (washing powder), using wires, and poisonous herbs.
Groups like Pat Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice, led by Jay Sekulow (a Romney campaign favorite) and HLI are pushing for even stricter laws and constitutional bans. However, when it comes to enforcement, both police and individuals seem to shy away from invading the "personal" decisions of women who seek abortions, even when they disapprove of the procedure.
You can view the executive summary of this report at ##http://www.publiceye.org/Reports/Colonizing_African_Values/Pdfs/PRA.Colonizing.Exec.Summ.pdf
July 29, 2012, Seattle Times
In a major reversal of once far-reaching family-planning policies, authorities are now slashing its birth-control programs in an attempt to avoid an aging demographic similar to many Western countries that are struggling to keep up with state medical and social-security costs.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the country's wide-ranging contraceptive services as "wrong." Family-planning programs have been cut from the budget for the current Iranian year.
Iran's economy is stumbling under a combination of international sanctions, inflation and double-digit unemployment. Many young people, particularly in Tehran and other large cities, are postponing marriage or keeping their families small because of the uncertainties.
Ali Reza Khamesian, a columnist in several pro-reform newspapers, said the change in policy also may be an attempt to send a message to the world that Iran is not suffering from sanctions imposed over the nuclear program that the West suspects is aimed at producing weapons - something Tehran denies.
More than half of Iran's population is under 35 years old. Those youth form the base of opposition groups, including the so-called Green Movement that led unprecedented street protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in 2009. Some experts have said that trying to boost the numbers for upcoming generations also could feed future political dissent.
Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Gulf Research Center based in Geneva said: "Young people are the heart of the Arab Spring, or the Islamic Awakening as Iran calls it." .. "Countries that haven't faced major protests during the Arab Spring still have to be mindful that the demands of the youth are still there."
In 1979 leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini encouraged families to contribute to a baby boom to build a "20 million member army". In 1986, toward the end of the eight-year war with Iraq, census figures show the population's growth rate reached 3.9% - among the highest in the world at the time, and in line with Persian traditions that favor big families.
But in the 1990s, leaders feared galloping population could overwhelm the economy, which led to Iran becoming a regional leader in family-planning options, including offering free or subsidized condoms and other contraceptives, and issuing religious edicts in favor of vasectomies. By 2011, Iran's population growth had fallen to one of the lowest in region - 1.3%. Recently, Khamenei said contraceptive policy made sense 20 years ago, "but its continuation in later years was wrong."
In 2005 newly-elected President Ahmadinejad called the birth-control measures ungodly and a Western import. In 2009, he unveiled proposals for each new baby to receive $950 in a government bank account and then get $95 every year until reaching 18.
"Scientific and experts studies show that we will face population aging and reduction if the birth-control policy continues," he said, a day after the Statistical Center of Iran said the country's population had reached more than 75.1 million - more than double its 33.7 million in 1976.
In Morocco there has been a 60% decline in the numbers of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth and a rapid increase in modern contraceptive use by both rural and urban women and for relatively low levels of "unmet need" for family planning - defined as the share of women who wish to delay or avoid pregnancy but are not using contraception.
Morocco's maternal death rate is now closer to the average for Central America (90 per 100,000) than the average for the North African region (270 per 100,000) or Africa as a whole (590 per 100,000).
The share of married women ages 15 to 49 who want to postpone or avoid pregnancy was about 60% in 2004 and 80% by 2011, when 67% were using contraception.
Farzaneh Roudi-Fahimi, Middle East and North Africa program director at the Population Reference Bureau said, "When a woman wants a smaller family and uses contraception effectively, she can have fewer pregnancies—reducing her lifetime risk of disability and death from complications during pregnancy and childbirth."
The nation is poised to to be on track to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 5 - reducing maternal mortality by 75% between 1990 and 2015. Morocco has made safe motherhood a priority and invested in increased availability of voluntary family planning services, expanded and improved maternal health care, and ensured access to obstetric care (including Caesarian birth) in part by eliminating fees.
The Moroccan government has been by focusing on household-based delivery of family planning services, making modern contraceptives available to low-income and rural women who would otherwise not have access to private-sector services.
57% of Moroccan married women of reproductive age were using a modern contraceptive method in 2011, an increase from 36% since 1992. 10% were using traditional family planning methods, compared with about 6% in 1992.
While 44% of all Moroccan women ages 15 and older are literate, 72% of young women - ages 15 to 24 - are literate, according to 2009 UN data.
A 2011 PAPFAM survey found that Moroccan women were having 2.6 children on average in 2011. The change has been particularly dramatic among women living in rural areas, whose fertility declined from 6.6 births in 1980 to 3.2 births on average in 2011.
Modern contraceptive use among married women in the poorest quintile rose from 18% to 55% - not far behind that of women in the richest quintile. Unmet need for family planning among the poorest women was cut by more than half during that time.
The 2011 PAPFAM survey results also reflect dramatic increases in health care during pregnancy and childbirth, which research has linked to improved survival of both mothers and children. These changes are partly the result of policies that increased the number of trained midwives and removed the barriers that prevented rural women from accessing health care during pregnancy and delivery, including transportation.
Between 1992 and 2011, the share of births delivered at home declined from 95 percent to 61 percent for women in the poorest fifth of the population and from 73 percent to 14 percent for women with incomes in the middle fifth.
72% of women practicing family planning rely on the pill and 16 percent rely on traditional methods. Morocco's family planning program would benefit from expanding services to include more contraceptive choices, including condoms that prevent both pregnancy and HIV.
Moroccan family planning and maternal health services tend to focus on the needs of married women and these programs should be expanded to serve unmarried couples who are sexually active. "The number of couples in such relationships is not high, but the fact that women in such relationships find it difficult to access family planning counseling and services puts their health and well-being in danger, particularly if they are young," Roudi-Fahimi said.
Overpopulation is at the core of many social, economic and environmental problems. It is estimated that the earth has the capacity to support and sustain approximately 4 billion people. The earth has 7 billion while the United Nations projects this to reach 9.3 billion by 2040.
Population growth is destroying ecosystems, affecting climate change and causing loss of agricultural land to residential and industrial development.
China has prevented more than 400 million births since the inception of its one child policy. However India increases its population every year by approximately 25 million. The Philippines is already beyond its carrying capacity, no longer able to feed its population, and has become the biggest rice importer on the planet.
What the Philippines desperately needs is a government-supported family planning program, but there has been lack of progress on a reproductive health bill due to corruption and the Catholic Church and meanwhile 2 million Filipino babies are born every year.
The Guttmacher Institute found that the cost of providing birth control to the 215 million women on the planet who have unintended pregnancies, is about $4.50 a year per woman. This could be the difference between having only 8 billion mouths to feed by the end of the century, instead of 15 billion.
Food reserves are at a fifty-year low and the world will require 50% more energy, food and water by 2030, says the U.K.'s chief scientist.
In Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, with an estimated population of 90 million, divorce is endemic; most re-marry and have more children they cannot support. And many girls are married off against their will as soon as they are old enough to bring in a dowry, usually to a much older man. Many of them are temporary, or 'seasonal' marriages, which are nothing more than a smokescreen for exploitation by wealthy married men. Within 3-6 months the girl is divorced, in most cases she is too ashamed to return home, often remaining and existing in abuse and enslavement by the first wife. This is also common practice in Yemen. While girls in developed countries have the freedom to go to school, raise their hands in class and share their opinions, girls in developing countries are burdened with chores and responsibilities from a very young age.
This is one of the many reasons for high illiteracy amongst girls in developing countries. Too often cultural and religious practices such as female genital mutilation are the cause of such unbelievable suffering, that attending school is the least of a child's worries. Mothers do not allow their girls to study until housework and other chores such as collecting water are done. When the girl's family is poor, they have to marry early, work in the fields or as domestic laborers in order to help their families put food on the table.
We need to break the vicious cycle of poverty, lack of education, lack of employment and incessant breeding which has left many aid organizations overwhelmed.
The solution starts with a 12-year-old girl. Don't take her out of school when she's old enough to bring in a dowry, provide an incentive for her family (i.e. a cow, a goat or plough), keep her there through secondary school and then connect her to a decent job.
By supporting girls, providing them with a safe environment to learn, giving them life skills, mentoring and nutrition we can affect not only the life of a child but the whole family, and whole community in the most positive way.
Dhamar, a governorate of Yemen, is suffering a scarcity of resources, and a December 2011 study funded by the Dutch government said that further population growth will worsen already deteriorating economic conditions and put increased pressure on service sectors such as education, health, food, energy, water, effectively doubling expenditures.
Arable land per capita is expected to fall to 201 square meters, compared to 494 in 2009, while agricultural crops (grains) would fall from 61kg to 22kg per head - all while the growing population will actually need more land and grain to meet demand.
Water availability - which is falling across Yemen - will decline in the governorate from 102 cubic meters to only 42 if the current levels of water produced in the region remain the same.
"More awareness of reproductive health and family planning are needed," it was concluded. The demand for birth control methods is still low due to a lack of awareness - particularly in rural areas - and fears among families of any side effects and risks. Religious views on contraception are also a factor.
The government must offer free delivery services and family planning at medical centers. They must take actions to make families send their children to schools. "Decisions to set the marriage age at 18 and the banning of female genital mutilation have to be supported."
Studies confirm that Yemen's population will increase from 23 million in 2008 to 61 million in 2035 as a result of the high fertility rate - maintaining its position as the fastest growing Arab country. These numbers could be reduced to 46 million in 2035 if proper health and population measures are taken.
by Asghar Ali Engineer of Mumbai, Islamic scholar
Many people ask if family planning is permissible in Islam, saying the imams and ulama say Qur'an prohibits family planning and quoting a verse which says, "And kill not your children for fear of poverty - We provide for them and for you. Surely the killing of them is a great wrong." (17:31). .... This does not refer to family planning because you can only kill one who exists.
Some people suggest that it refers to the practice of burying the girl child alive when they cannot provide for them, but as Imam Razi suggests, it refers to both male and female children being kept ignorant. Not killing the body but killing the mind which is as bad as killing the body. The word used here is 'awlad' i.e. children which include both male as well as female and not only female.
In fact a large family means children cannot be properly educated by poor parents and hence parents kill them mentally by keeping them ignorant. They cannot even clothe them properly. In such circumstances one cannot have good quality Muslims and better quality is more desirable than mere quantity.
In early days the problem of family planning did not exist. It is a modern problem. Most of the nation states in third world do not have economic means to support a large population, including feeding them, educating them and also providing proper health services. These are basic duties of modern nation states.
The paucity of resources require the adoption of family planning. When Qur'an was being revealed there was neither any properly organized state nor education or health services being provided by any state agency. It is important to note that Qur'an which shows eight ways to spend zakat, does not include education or health which is so essential for the state to provide today. Thus what Imam Razi suggests is not only very correct and also enhances importance of family planning in the modern times as small family can support better education and health services.
Verse 4:3 is usually interpreted: do not marry more than one so that you may not do injustice. But Imam Shafi'I renders it as 'so that you do not have large family'.
In understanding the Qur'an, even very eminent imams and great scholars differed from each other. One should not impose one single meaning of a verse on all Muslims. It could be interpreted differently by different people in their own context and circumstances. Family planning being a modern need one should not reject it out of hand and quote Qur'anic verses out of context.
The Qur'an also suggests that a child be suckled at least for two years and it is well known that as long as mother suckles she would not conceive. Thus indirectly the Qur'an also suggests spacing of a child.
Even in hadith literature we find that the Prophet (PBUH) permitted prevention of conceiving in certain circumstances. When a person asked Prophet for permission for 'azl (coitus interrupts) as he was going for a long journey along with his wife and he did not want his wife to conceive while travelling the Messenger of Allah allowed him. In those days 'azl was the only known method for planning of birth of a child. Today there are several methods available like use of condoms.
Imam Ghazzali, a very eminent theologian and philosopher allows termination of pregnancy if mother's life is in danger and shows several methods for termination. He even allows termination of pregnancy on health grounds or if mother's beauty is in danger provided it is in consultation with her husband.. Some scholars say that verse 23:14 concludes that one can terminate pregnancy up to three months as this verse describes stages of development of sperm planted in mother's womb and it takes three months for life to begin.
Saudi women feel they have the least freedom or fewest rights of any women in the world. They have no right to vote, are not allowed to drive, have little say in matters of marriage and divorce, and cannot travel without a letter of permission from their male guardian.
They must wear a black robe and veil whenever they leave the house.
The government recently reneged on a promise to grant them the vote in municipal elections this fall.
The president of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association thinks the government is using it to make concessions to the hard-line Islamic fundamentalists in the kingdom, who, among other things, run the much feared religious police here and oppose giving women more rights. They also keep Saudi citizens in check at a time when political dissent in the kingdom is growing.
Small groups of women are going to the voting places and asking for a voting card. Others have tried to defy the ban against females driving. But then they are described as whores and their husbands as pimps and they suffer reprisals at work and have their passports confiscated by the government.
In just one decade Iran dropped its near-record population growth rate to one of the lowest in the developing world.
In 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini assumed leadership in Iran and launched the Islamic revolution. He dismantled the well-established family planning programs and instead advocated large families wanting to increase the ranks of soldiers for Islam in the war against Iraq.
Fertility levels climbed, pushing Iran's annual population growth to 4.2% in the early 1980s, probably the biological maximum. This enormous growth began to burden the economy and the environment, the country's leaders realized that overcrowding, environmental degradation, and unemployment were undermining Iran's future.
In 1989 the government restored its family planning program. In May 1993, a national family planning law was passed, encouraging smaller families. Iran Broadcasting raised awareness of population issues and of the availability of family planning services. 70% of rural households had TV sets. Religious leaders crusaded for smaller families. 15,000 health clinics were established to provide rural populations with health and family planning services.
Iran introduced a variety of contraceptive measures, including vasectomy and sterilization, all free of charge. Couples were required to take a course on modern contraception before receiving a marriage license. In addition Iran launched an effort to raise female literacy, raising it from 25% in 1970 to over 70% in 2000. Female school enrollment increased from 60% to 90%. Women and girls with more schooling are likely to have fewer children.
Family size in Iran dropped from seven children to fewer than three. From 1987 to 1994, Iran cut its population growth rate by half.
The bad news is that in July 2010 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the country's family planning program ungodly and announced a new pronatalist policy. The government would pay couples to have children, depositing money in each child's bank account until age 18.
Take part in PRB's upcoming Discuss Online: "Child Marriage in Yemen" on Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 1-2 p.m. (EDT) (GMT-4), with Dalia Al-Eryani, Program Coordinator for the "Safe Age of Marriage Project" at Pathfinder International. Go to: http://discuss.prb.org One in three women ages 20 to 24 were married before their 18th birthday in Yemen, which still has the highest rate of early marriage in western Asia.
The USAID-funded "Safe Age of Marriage Project" was designed to change social norms around early marriage, girls' education, and children's rights. Community educators work to increase awareness about the dangers of early marriage and early childbearing and to communicate the benefits of delaying marriage and keeping girls in school.
The United Nations has projected that world population will 9.2 billion by 2050. This is the middle projection, the most likely one. However, if fertility rates come down slower than expected, world population could reach 10.5 billion by 2050. If the goal is to eradicate poverty, hunger, and illiteracy, then we have little choice but to strive for the low projection of 8 billion (and peaking) by 2042, which assumes that the world will quickly move below replacement-level fertility.
Slowing world population growth means ensuring that all women who want to plan their families have access to family planning information and services. 215 million women, 59% of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent do not have this access. These women, along with their families, represent about 1 billion of the world's poorest, for whom unintended pregnancies and unwanted births are an enormous burden.
A former USAID official said that often "women live in fear of their next pregnancy. They just do not want to get pregnant." UNFPA and Guttmacher estimate that meeting the needs of these 215 million women who lack reproductive health care and effective contraception could each year prevent 53 million unwanted pregnancies, 24 million induced abortions, and 1.6 million infant deaths.
A universal family planning and reproductive health program would cost an additional $21 billion in funding from industrial and developing countries. In Bangladesh analysts figures that it would cost the government $62 to prevent an unwanted birth and save $615 in expenditures on other social services.
When countries move to smaller families, growth in the number of young dependents - those who need nurturing and educating - declines relative to the number of working adults. Removing the financial burden of large families allows more people to escape from poverty. At the national level, the demographic bonus causes savings and investment to climb, productivity to surge, and economic growth to accelerate.
Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Thailand, and Viet Nam have been helped by earlier sharp reductions in birth rates. Although this effect lasts for only a few decades, it is usually enough to launch a country into the modern era. No developing country (except for some oil-rich countries) has successfully modernized without slowing population growth.
Many developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America were successful in quickly reducing their fertility within a generation or so after public health and medical gains lowered their mortality rates. But others - including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen did not follow this path and have been trapped in the demographic cycle of poverty (Large families are a greater financial burden on both parents and governments, and more impoverished people and societies tend to produce larger families.) These countries face the compounding of 3% growth per year or 20-fold per century. Limited land and water resources are strained. With large "youth bulges" outrunning job creation, the growing number of unemployed young men increases the risk of conflict. This also raises the odds of becoming a failing state.
Governments can help couples reduce family size very quickly when they commit to doing so. In just one decade Iran dropped its near-record population growth rate to one of the lowest in the developing world. Iran's success story involves: government's desire to lower population growth, raising public awareness through television, outreach to rural populations, health clinics, access to an array of birth control methods, female literacy and school enrollment.
Former Australian politician Dr. John Coulter, vice-president of Sustainable Population Australia, recently chided commentators and pundits covering the riots in Northern Africa and the Middle East:
"No mention was made of the very large and growing population of Egypt, its extremely small arable land area which is being rapidly covered by houses and roads, the total dependence now on food imports to sustain the population or the rapidly falling oil exports with which the Egyptian Government has hitherto paid for food imports and also subsidized both food and petroleum and natural gas used by the native population."
Egypt's population tripled in 48 years: from 27.8 million in 1960 to 81.7 million in 2008 and is growing at a rate of 2% a year (double in 36 years). Egypt is a desert, getting only about 2 inches a year and only 3% of it's land is arable. Arable land per capita: 0.04 Ha (an area just 20 by 20 meters). Egypt imports 40% of its food and 60% of its grain. Oil production has peaked and declined 26% in 2009. The price of oil and food are rising.
Very large numbers of young people in Egypt are still to enter their reproductive years that underlies Egypt's unsustainable and socially disruptive trajectory. Rapid population growth will crush the prospects of sustainable improvements in human dignity and standard of living.
Almost four decades ago, the classified National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 200 was completed. Commissioned by President Richard Nixon, it said: "Rapid population growth creates a severe drag on rates of economic development otherwise attainable, sometimes to the point of preventing any increase in per capita incomes." ... "Adverse socio-economic conditions generated by rapid population growth in less developed countries may contribute to high and increasing levels of child abandonment, juvenile delinquency, chronic and growing under employment and unemployment, petty thievery, organized brigandry, food riots, separatist movements, communal massacres, revolutionary actions and counter-revolutionary coups." ... "In a broader sense, there is a major risk of severe damage to world economic, political, and ecological systems and, as these systems begin to fail, to our humanitarian values."
There are an alarming rise in the number of "failed states" and nation-states on the verge of sliding into the maelstrom of failure. Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Pakistan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Nepal and Uganda are examples. Almost without exception, each of these countries is staggering under hyper population growth.
Saudi Women Sore Over Men-only PollsMarch 31, 2011, Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
In Saudi Arabia, women have been banned from voting in this year's municipal elections. The first municipal elections were held in 2005, but they were men only. Dr Mohammad Al Zulfa, former member of the Shura Council and woman's rights advocate said that not having women take part in the first municipal elections could be justified but after five years of the experiment, depriving women from the elections is unjustifiable.
The elections will be held on September 22. The reform process was initiated by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz. Lack of readiness at the polls will make it impossible for women to participate this year, the voting commission said. Also foreign organisations would not be allowed to monitor the elections.
"Women will be allowed to take part at the appropriate time," Election Commissioner Abdul Rahman Al Dahmash said.
A number of Saudi women activists and men advocating women rights described the decision as "unjustifiable and unacceptable". Saudi women have realized significant achievements at the local and international levels and so they are capable in being candidates and voters in the upcoming municipal elections. "We are looking for a political decision from King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz to have women, who constitute 49% of the Kingdom's population, take part in the forthcoming municipal elections," said Suhaila Zain Abdeen, a Saudi woman and human rights activist.
by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Nujood Ali was a nine year old girl who was forced by her own family to marry a man three times her age. She had to drop out of school against her will, and was physically abused. To avoid further misery and suffering, Nujood boarded a bus and found her way to the local courthouse.
Nujood told the judge she wanted a divorce. Female attorney Shada Nasser took Nujood's case and others like it. Today, thanks to Shada's work, girls across Yemen have been given their childhoods back. They are back in school, where they belong.
More than half of the poorest one-fifth of girls in Yemen marry before the age of 18.
Stopping child marriage is not just a must for moral or human rights reasons-it lays the foundation for so many other things we hope to achieve. Primary education. Improved child and maternal health. Sustainable economic development that includes girls.
Child marriage is both a consequence and a cause of poverty. In some cases, girls are sold into marriage simply to resolve a debt. Once married, child brides often lack status and power within their marriages and households. Their youth leaves them even more vulnerable to domestic violence, marital rape and other sexual abuse. They become isolated from their family, friends and community. On average, child brides become less healthy, and their kids grow up less healthy and poorer.
We are reaching out to women and girls, fathers and brothers, religious leaders and all who can help us to convince societies that this particular tradition is better left behind. Governments, too, are taking steps to raise the minimum age of marriage. We need to make our case far and wide to plant the seeds that will one day convince the rest.
In some places rights of women means ensuring that daughters as well as sons have enough to eat. In others, it means demanding equal pay for equal work. Societies cannot flourish if half their people are left behind. They are leading the fight to protect and promote human rights and opening up the doors of opportunity for everyone.
I often say that one of my goals as Secretary of State is to help people everywhere live up to their God-given potential. Few have fought as hard for it as Nujood Ali and Shada Nasser. I'm honored to know them. We all should share their cause.
The recent Arab rebellion began rising three decades ago as a neonatal bulge rippling across the Middle East and North Africa.
In the villages of Bahrain and Algeria and the streets of Cairo, Damascus, Tunis and Sanaa, fertility rates rose and experts warned countries to brace for an unparalleled "youth bulge" that would some day demand skills training, jobs, homes and prosperity.
Autocrats who failed to harness the advancing multitude with economic opportunities risked rebellion.
There are a record 100 million young people aged 15 to 29 in the Arab world - and tens of millions of younger ones behind them.
People of all ages are complaining about high unemployment, poor living conditions, food inflation, police brutality, gender inequality, corruption, and despotic rule.
But it is the region's tilted demographic forces and the rebellious soul of youth that is driving the resentment, frustration and anger into the streets and the history books.
In Tunisia, 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, street fruit vendor, set himself ablaze to protest government harassment. He was one of 5.3 million Tunisians under 30 - half the total population - and was struggling to earn $140 a month to support his family in a country where the youth unemployment rate is 27%.
At least in Tunisia the 15-29 age group has peaked and the fertility rate is low and falling. Tunisia's prospects for social and political stability, and even the likelihood of achieving and maintaining democratic governance, are better than many of its neighbours.
Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Iran are not expected to reach a more balanced age demographic for another decade.
Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen face the greatest challenges. Yemeni women each have an average of half a dozen children and 55% of the population is under the age of 20 and 73% is under 30. The population is expected to triple to at least 61 million by 2035.
In the entire world, 3.6 billion of the population is under 30. A 2007 research project found that during the 1990s, countries with a very young structure were three times more likely to experience civil conflict than countries with a mature age structure.
With the Internet being available to many young people in the developing world frustrations accumulate when they see what they don't have: affluence, political inclusion, advanced education systems, freedom of speech, promise.
Mass grievances can lead people to rise up and speak out, but can also incite armed rebellion.
"If you don't have access to good jobs, to be self-sustainable, the 'opportunity costs' of joining a rebel movement or uprising is lower because there's little else that you're giving up," says Madsen, co-author of The Shape of Things to Come: Why Age Structure Matters to a Safer, More Equitable World.
A work by the Brookings Institution, Generation in Waiting: The Unfulfilled Promise of Young People in the Middle East, found that:
1) While previous generations of youth in the Middle East have benefited from free education and public sector job guarantees, demographic pressures have strained these institutions and are no longer available to those born in the 1980s and later.
2) Despite the fact that countries in the Middle East have made significant gains in increasing enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education since the 1970s, the quality of education remains substandard in many countries.
3) Unemployment rates in the area are at nearly 11%, and for young people it is between 20 to 25%, and even worse for young women.
4) Poor job prospects have led to delayed marriage and difficulties securing housing.
Population Action International reports that between 1970 and 2007, only 13% of countries with very young age structures were rated as full democracies, compared to 81% of countries with mature age structures. And countries in which more than 60% of the population is younger than 30 are more likely to face restrictions on political freedoms and civil liberties and experience corruption, weak institutional capacity and regulatory quality.
Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions were incited by economic want and inequality as much as political repression. A mere change of government will not make these countries' economic problems go away. The converging effects of population growth, climate change, and energy depletion are setting the stage for a looming triple crisis.
The Arab world has 6.3% of the world's population but only 1.4% of its renewable fresh water. Twelve of the world's 15 most water-scarce countries are in the region - Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel and Palestine. In eight of these countries there are less than 250 cubic meters of available fresh water per person per year.
Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey hold 75% of the region's fresh water. From 1965 to 1997, population growth drove demand for agricultural development, leading to a doubling of land under irrigation, and linking water consumption to industrial agriculture.
One-third of the overall population is below 15 years old, and large numbers of young women are reaching reproductive age, or soon will be. By 2030 the population of the Middle East will increase by 132%, and that of sub-Saharan Africa by 81% generating an unprecedented "youth bulge." This will only worsen their predicament.
The World Bank's Water Sector Assessment Report on the Gulf countries, published in 2005, predicts the availability of fresh water to halve, possibly leading to inter-state conflict. Competition to control water is already happening between Turkey and Syria; Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority; Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia; and between Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan.
Economic growth, along with greater urbanization and higher per capita incomes, translates into greater demand for fresh water. By as early as 2015, the average Arab will be forced to survive on less than 500 cubic meters of water per year, a level defined as severe scarcity. Shifts in rainfall patterns will certainly affect crops, particularly rice.
In addition, global average temperatures could rise by 4 degrees Celsius by mid-century, causing crop yields to fall by 15-35%, depending on the strength of carbon fertilization.
It would take trillions of dollars to build an infrastructure capable of responding to the intensifying water crisis, and its development would itself be energy-intensive, and would only mitigate the impact of scarcity on richer countries. Hydrocarbon energy depletion will complicate matters even more.
The International Energy Agency in its World Energy Outlook for 2010, claimed that conventional oil production worldwide probably peaked in 2006, and is now declining. World oil production has been undulating but gradually falling since around 2005.
While the IEA argued that the shortfall will be made up from greater exploitation of unconventional oil and gas reserves, it would be at far higher prices, owing to the greater environmental and extraction costs. It could be that the IEA's optimism about unconventional sources is misplaced.
While the six biggest Middle Eastern oil-producing countries claim around 740 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, British geologist Euan Mearns says these reserves may be at only around 350 billion barrels. The U.K. government's former chief scientific adviser, David King, claimed official world oil reserves had been overstated by up to one-third - implying that we are on the verge of a major "tipping point" in oil production.
Within the next decade or so, major oil-producing countries will struggle against costly geological constraints, and by 2020 - even as early as 2015 - the Middle East oil contribution could become negligible, causing loss of state revenues for the oil-producing Arab countries, rendering them highly vulnerable to the compounding consequences of existing water shortages, rapid demographic expansion, climate change, and declining crop yields.
Reviving conservation, management and distribution efforts could reduce water consumption and increase efficiency, but these measures need to be combined with radical reforms to speed the transition away from oil dependence to a zero-carbon renewable-energy infrastructure. Concerted investments in health, education and citizens' rights, especially for women, are the key tools for alleviating population growth in the region and diversifying its economies.
Iran's populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is urging Iranian girls to marry as young as 16, in a bid to reverse decades of family planning policy that turned revolutionary Iran into a UN-recognized model of curbing population growth in the Islamic world.
The Iranian president wants to bolster the nation's population of 75 million, saying Iran can sustain 150 million citizens, and since July has supported a program of financial incentives for every new baby born.
Seeking more "soldiers of Islam" after the 1979 Islamic revolution, family planning centers of the pro-West Shah were taken down on the grounds that Islam and Iran needed a large population." But as population growth rose to 3.9% per year - among the highest in the world - it became clear to Iran's leaders that such growth was unsustainable. By 1986 the population had jumped in a decade from 33 million to nearly 50 million.
Family planning courses became required for newlyweds, birth control services emerged in the most remote villages, and sterilization procedures for men and women were provided free of charge.
Subsidies were cut to large households, and regime policy held that that the "ideal" Islamic family had two children. Condoms were subsidized, and the Islamic Republic's state-owned factory produced 45 million a year by the late 1990s. By 2001 it was producing 70 million.
"No other country did such great work in such a short time," Mohamed Mosleh-Uddin, the Tehran representative of the UN Population Fund, told the Monitor in 1999. He said the rest of the developing world took "30 to 40 years to get this far." Religious support, political commitment, and a good health infrastructure all worked together.
Critics say that Iran's deepening economic problems, from unemployment and inflation to lack of resources, will only worsen with a swelling population. Currently some two-thirds of the population is under 35 years old.
Ahmadinejad in late 2006 called for a baby boom.
"Our country has a lot of capacity … for many children to grow in it," ... "Westerners have got problems. Because their population growth is negative, they are worried and fear that if our population increases, we will triumph over them."
Lebanon, once considered to have an abundance of water, is threatened with acute shortages as the Arab world lurches toward severe water scarcity as early as 2015.
For Lebanon, which has long neglected to take measures to conserve and manage its water resources, the crisis couldn't come at a worse time: The government is gripped by political crisis that many fear could lead to renewed civil war; the decision-making process has been paralyzed; and a 10-year water plan adopted in 2002 has ground to a halt.
The Cabinet, burdened with a $54 billion public debt, decided recently to delay all discussion on a proposal by Water and Energy Minister Jibran Bassil to build 11 dams on Lebanon's several rivers.
Fadi Comair, general director of hydraulic and electrical resources, says that enlisting the private sector is the only way to solve the worsening water problem.
The World Bank recently urged major investment in Lebanon's ramshackle water infrastructure while noting that the tiny country's water resources are equivalent to 49,830 cubic feet per capita, one of the highest in the Middle East and North Africa.
Other states in the arid region can only watch in wonder as Lebanon's government ignores a problem most would gladly take on if they had the same water resources.
The Arab world has 5% of the world's population -- an estimated 360 million people -- but only 1.4% of the planet's renewable fresh water supply.
By 2025, the Arab population will likely total around 568 million, gravely stretching shrinking natural water resources.
By the end of the century, the report noted, climate change will mean a 25% decrease in precipitation and a matching increase in evaporation rates.
The wealthier Arab states, primarily the oil producers of the Persian Gulf that have no rivers and little rainfall, rely heavily on desalination plants. They account for half the world's desalination capacity, a costly undertaking. Other states, including Egypt and Jordan, plan to develop nuclear power to drive such plants.
But that will take years to achieve. And even in the Arabian Peninsula, water consumption is rising as the population swells.
Water use there now exceeds renewable sources, and that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.
A recent report by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development says in less than five years Arabs will have to get by on around 7,650 cubic feet of water a year each. That's less than 1- 10th of the world average of 196,800 cubic feet of water per capita.
Agriculture is a major drain on renewable water supplies because of irrigation and that could lead to states going to war over water resources in a region where sectarian and ethnic conflict as well as intrastate tensions are rife.
School's Out for Egypt's Sex EducationOctober 07, 2010, Guardian (London)
In a surprising move, the Egyptian government has decided to scrap all content in the secondary school curriculum relating to sex education, reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases.
There will be "activities in which the teacher will lead a class discussion on the subject" - a suggestion that is difficult to take seriously since anything remotely related to sex, really - is usually met in Egyptian classrooms with giggles. And teachers were too shy to teach it.
"The coming generation will be lacking basic knowledge in sex, STDs, birth control, hygiene - all thanks to the minister of education." An increasingly religiously conservative society is also to blame.
Even the country's leading medical school at Cairo University does not teach sex education. Ain Shams University medical school students have a "sexology" class - the "anatomical and biological aspects of sex ed, not the social and psychological ones.
While Iran and Tunisia have taken pioneering steps in reaching out to young people to address their needs, the region as a whole lacks the political commitment and institutional capacity to do so. Only Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Bahrain include a reproductive health module in their national school curricula.
In Saudi Arabia, a recent study found that there is a severe need for sex education in the country and that 80% of parents surveyed approved of it. But an Emirati bestselling book on sex education, which has already earned the approval of the Mufti of Dubai, was banned in Saudi Arabia and its author has received death threats from conservatives who accuse her of blasphemy.
In Syria, the United Nations Population Fund feels compelled to reassure people on its website that sex education does not actually encourage sexual activity. Lebanon, often viewed as the most liberal country in the Middle East, had decided in 1997 to teach reproductive health to the 12-14 age group, only to have a presidential decree scrap those chapters from the school curriculum three years later.
A study reported that only 7% of adolescents had learned about sex from their fathers (while 42% of fathers said they discussed the matter with their kids); a 2006 survey by the Pan Arab Project for Family Health reported that, in Algeria, 95% of male respondents and 73% of female respondents had learned about puberty on their own, without professional or family assistance.
Television is potentially a useful source of information. With the airwaves awash with shows featuring clerics of various levels of religious knowledge and taking live telephone questions from the audience, sex and relationship questions have become a staple of the discussions - though unfortunately it is religious clerics and not sexologists who are dispensing advice.
One cable television show, presented by sexologist Dr Heba Kotb, represents the first groundbreaking effort on Arab television to respond to such queries ranging from the simplest to the more complex. A Syrian radio show - Today's Discussion - has reportedly begun to address questions of sex education.
All these programmes preach abstinence and fidelity and premarital sex is not covered by the mainstream educational media The international basic ABC programme - advocating Abstinence, Being Faithful, and using Condoms - finds its effectiveness curtailed when it stops at the first or second letter.
With local campaigns across the region planned to mark World Aids Day on 1 December, it is important to recall that, despite having some of the lowest incidence rates in the world, HIV/Aids is rapidly on the rise, with a 300% increase between 2004 and 2007, compared with 20% globally. This is a terrifying statistic whose only silver lining might be to remind that prevention is better than treatment - and that prevention starts with proper and accurate knowledge. If we want to address this, sex education in schools is the unavoidable first step.
Tourists swim amid raw sewage in the the Persian Gulf off Dubai; the purifying of seawater is raising salinity levels; and despite sitting on vast oil reserves, the region is running out of energy sources to support its rich lifestyle.
Waste treatment, providing fresh water, and running major industrial projects require so much electricity that the region is turning to a nuclear future, raising questions about the risks, both environmental and political, of relying in part on a technology vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attacks.
Other countries in the gulf are seeking to emulate it, especially as they prepare for a population boom.
"Growth has been so intense and enormous, but people forgot about the environment," said Jean-François Seznec, professor at Georgetown University in Washington. "Business comes first. Now, they are seeing increased problems, and they realize they have to be careful."
Water in the gulf is undrinkable without desalination plants, which produce emissions of carbon dioxide that have helped give Dubai and the other United Arab Emirates one of the world's largest carbon footprints. They also generate enormous amounts of heated sludge, which is pumped back into the sea.
The emirates desalinate the equivalent of four billion bottles of water a day. But the region has, on average, only an estimated four-day supply of fresh water.
The gulf's salinity levels have risen to 47,000 parts per million, from 32,000 about 30 years ago. Local fauna and marine life are threatened.
Rapid growth has meant that sewage treatment operations that have struggled to keep up with development. Until August, Dubai's single waste treatment plant dealt with 480,000 cubic meters, or 17 million cubic feet, of sewage daily, nearly twice the 260,000-cubic-meter capacity it could properly handle. Some of the raw waste driven in tankers was dumped down drains that flowed to the fashionable Jumeirah suburb.
Meanwhile, hundreds of skyscrapers were built with water and electricity as afterthoughts; environmental standards were rarely applied.
Breakneck pace has stressed natural resources throughout the region. Efforts to achieve developed status within the next 20 years have "magnified" the challenges to environmental protection.
To tackle the water problem, Abu Dhabi has set up a groundwater monitoring system and is recycling by irrigating lawns and desert forests with residual waste. It has started a public awareness campaign. Last month, the government awarded contracts to start building the United Arab Emirates' first water storage facility, which could hold a month's worth of backup.
The government has also started requiring new buildings to be designed using Western-style environmental standards that set goals for water and energy consumption.
Dubai also opened part of a large treatment facility this summer, doubling capacity. Moreover, after Dubai's financial crisis hit, an estimated 400,000 laborers left, easing pressure on the treatment plants, which enjoy excess capacity for the first time.
But other hurdles loom. Major industrial projects like aluminum smelting and steel production, which require large sources of electricity, are taxing the power grid. Many of these projects produce exports that supplement the emirates' oil business and are also used to build infrastructure.
But they are fueled by natural gas from Qatar, which limits supplies to the region. Alternates like solar energy and wind power are few and far between, while other solutions, like coal, are not viable because of transportation and supply challenges.
As a result, the emirates are turning to nuclear power as a major new source of energy. The emirates signed an accord in December with Washington allowing countries to build nuclear plants that do not enrich or reprocess uranium. Abu Dhabi plans to build four plants by 2017 and to generate about 23 percent of the emirates' power by 2020. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt are also studying nuclear power.
While desalination plants use less energy than the big industrial projects, Abu Dhabi is already planning to power some water treatment facilities by electricity from the emirates' nuclear reactors.
In the meantime, the administration of President Obama is trying to stop one of the emirates' neighbors, Iran, from developing nuclear power, out of fear that it intends to build a nuclear weapon. But American officials say they see the emirates' nuclear ambitions as a positive that could prod Iran along the same path of accepting proper safeguards.
From a sustainability perspective, nuclear power makes little sense, said the environmental director at the Gulf Research Center. While it produces clean energy, "it's not renewable, there's a very big problem with waste, and uranium supplies are projected to run out in 40 to 50 years — around the same time as oil," he said. "So there's little logic unless you really want to develop it for political and security reasons."
Afghanistan: Girls Flee Homes to Avoid Forced MarriagesAugust 29, 2010, Pajhwok Afghan News
Many girls in northern Baghlan province opt to run away from their homes instead of accepting forced marriages, which are usually are often arranged by parents for monetary benefits.
The situation has led to concern among women rights activists.
In many cases, girls are forced to marry elderly people in exchange for money, with poverty and ancient customs playing a key role. For example, a 19 year old woman was forced to marry a 65-year-old man. Her father got 80,000 afghanis in exchange. Her husband, who had already three sons and 12 grandchildren, beat her on a daily basis. Her husband divorced her saying she had fled the house and she was sent to prison for six months, but she was happy with the verdict, saying imprisonment would give her protection from the cruel outside world.
Rahima Zarifi, Baghlan women's affairs director, said 15 forced marriage cases were registered with her department this year.
Put Women's Rights Back on the AfghanAugust 27, 2010, Daily News Egypt
In 2004, after 11 years as refugees, we moved back to Kabul. The issue of women's freedom was still fresh, throughout the country and among the international community and aid organizations. In 2004, women were granted 25% representation in Afghanistans parliament, one of the highest in the world.
But by 2006, terrible violence broke out, pulling Afghan and international attention towards security, while women's rights, security, education and health had become secondary concerns. In recent years, just a few miles from Kabul, women and girls have once again been denied the right to go to school and some have even had their faces sprayed with acid or were subjected to other violent acts, such as kidnapping, rape and murder.
The growing focus away from Afghan women's rights, both in the Afghan government and the international community, leads one to conclude that the presence of women in public and government appears to be merely symbolic in Afghanistan; they hold no real power or influence.
The approval by Afghan President Hamid Karzai of the Shia Personal Status Law in March 2009 effectively destroyed Shia women's rights and freedoms in Afghanistan. Under this law, women have no right to deny their husbands sex unless they are ill, and can be denied food if they do. They are also denied the right to leave the home without the permission of a male family member. An August 2009 revision to the law allowed Shia women to leave their homes without permission only for emergencies.
If the Afghan government and the international community don't make women's rights a priority, the torture and oppression of women will once again become common practice in Afghan society, as it was a decade ago.
Strengthening the central government is key to establishing security throughout the country, which is especially important for women.
Imperative are educational programs that not only teach the population how to read and write, but also provide them with capacity-building trainings for jobs and workshops that include trauma healing, personal empowerment and a foundation for peace-building. Women who work in parliament or governmental organizations need relevant leadership training.
Many men in Syria say it is up to Allah whether more children arrive, even if they complaing about how much money they earn.
Syria has a population of 20 million people, with a growth rate that remains one of the world's highest at about 2.4%, but it has declined 3.2% from 1947-94.
A Syrian economist said: "We have a problem, it could be a burden on our development."
Labor has been growing 4.5% a year, outpacing job creation for .25 million youngsters on the job market every year. Perhaps in 20 years the growth rate will go down to 1.5% as in Egypt. The official unemployment rate is around 10%, but independent estimates put it up to 25% percent.
Syrian women have an average of 3.6 children each. Fertility rates are expected to fall from 2 - 2.5 children per woman now to 1.4 - 2 by 2025.
In the seven least-developed governorates, women have between 3.8 and 6.2 children and they are not expected to decline much in the next 15 years.
Urbanization and education, especially among girls and women, are the most potent forces that curb population growth.
Religion is irrelevant. Development brings education, which is a crucial factor because it increases the cost of raising children. Syria has modernized more slowly than Lebanon, where fertility is below the replacement rate.
Contact with the outside world gives people a taste for cars or other goods they can only afford by having fewer children.
Young people may be delaying marriage partly because they spend years in higher education and partly because they then cannot meet the traditional marriage costs.
In rural areas, families are often large because it is relatively cheap to raise children until they start earning money.
Several international human rights agreements protect children from child marriage. All call for the free and full consent of both parties to marriage, a minimum age of marriage of 18, designation of child marriage as a harmful practice, and protection for the rights of children from all forms of exploitation.
Early marriage compromises girls' development and often results in early pregnancy and social isolation. Child marriage also reinforces the vicious cycle of early marriage, low education, high fertility, and poverty. Most countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have laws on the minimum age for marriage, ranging from age 13 in Iran to age 20 in Tunisia for females, and from age 15 in Yemen to age 21 in Algeria for males (see table).
Some families take advantage of religious laws that condone an earlier marriage age, and arrange for their daughters to marry in religious wedding ceremonies, postponing the official registration until the bride reaches the legal age. Such practices further disadvantage child brides, leaving them with no legal basis to receive inheritance, alimony, or child support if the husband dies prematurely or abandons his underage bride.
With many families conducting religious ceremonies to marry off their young daughters and a low minimum legal age for girls in some countries, a significant number of girls in the MENA region still get married before age 18. In Yemen, one-third of women ages 20 to 24 are married by age 18. In Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq, significant proportions of women ages 20 to 24 were married before their 18th birthday. Among countries with available data, Algeria has the lowest percent of young women who were married before their 18th birthday - 2%.
Education is the most important factor influencing the age of marriage for women. Improving access to education for both girls and boys and eliminating gender gaps in education are important strategies for ending child marriage. Since families have great influence in their daughters' marriages, they need to be involved in the solution and encourage their daughters to stay in school and ensure a protected transition to adulthood.
Increasing the years of compulsory education may be one tactic to prolong the period of time when a girl is in school and unavailable for marriage. In addition, policies and programs should be geared toward discouraging early marriage by:
* Encouraging parents to keep their daughters in school until they finish high school and subsidizing the cost for families with limited financial resources.
* Raising public awareness about children's rights to education and protection against exploitation.
* Changing the attitudes of people who condone the practice of early marriage by targeted campaigns and use of the mass media, showcasing the benefits of keeping girls in school for their individual development and well-being, as well as for benefits to their families.
Girls who marry young are at a higher risk of domestic violence and sexually transmitted diseases, especially since sex is likely to be unprotected within marriage. Social norms often dictate that these young women produce children as soon as possible after marriage, but girls are risking their lives in doing so - young adolescents' risk of illness, injury, or death as a result of pregnancy is much higher than for women over 18.
Efforts are also needed to address concerns of those who are already married at a young age by:
* Ensuring their access to school, so they can fulfill their right to a full education.
* Decreasing the pressure on young women to conceive through advocacy and education on the dangers of early motherhood.
* Improving their access to reproductive health care, including family planning services.
* Providing them with training programs to improve their life skills and ensure that they can earn a livelihood.
* Providing services to victims of domestic violence.
The media can force policymakers to react, as happened in highly publicized cases in Yemen and Saudi Arabia where girls as young as 9 and 12 were trying to divorce their older husbands. In both countries, the publicized cases brought child and human rights advocates and lawyers together to campaign against child marriage. In Yemen, the story caused Parliament to discuss the issue and consider raising the minimum legal age of marriage for girls to 17 years. In Saudi Arabia, which has no legal minimum age for marriage, a draft law is now under discussion to set a minimum age for marriage of between 16 and 18. Until such a law is enacted, advocates are pressing for the Saudi government to ban notaries from legitimizing the marriages of girls under 18.
Egypt's 90,000 to 1 million street children find themselves on the street, usually when mother or father have no money to pay the rent or mom has to turn to prostitution.
Egypt in 2003 adopted a new national strategy for the protection and rehabilitation of street children, which tasked the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) with coordinating the efforts of NGOs and relevant governmental organizations. But the national strategy has yet to become operational in the form of an action plan.
Some say the number of births in Egypt is increasing because of illegal marriages, involving underage girls, which in turn fueled the existence of street children and child labor, adding to a national population growing by 1.5 million every year. But another said: "We don't have early marriage in Egypt because the age has risen. Many don't marry until their 30s because of the economic circumstances."
The minister said fighting school dropouts was one of the most effective ways to deal with the problem.
"If you don't eliminate poverty, you will always have street children," another said. "No number of governmental agencies and NGOs will be able to look out for this number of children."
“If you talk about one million street children in Egypt, who will marry and have children, they will send them to the streets with completely different norms and values to the society," Tibe explained. “It will cause a conflict in society itself, because the rehabilitation institution does not develop alternatives for these children to become respected people in the community. There is no way but crime."
Save the Children in Egypt said that in the past, thousands of such children were arrested, by virtue of being on the street alone, and were sent to detention centers without appropriate protection. But now the police sometimes demand money from the homeless children who are lucky enough to earn some money and even save some of it.
A UNICEF spokesman for the MENA region told said the factors include "poverty, rural migration, bad housing, school dropout, violence against children and others. Children living in the street are affected by a combination of mutually reinforcing protection risks such as child labor, trafficking, conflict with the law and abuse."
A government survey in 2009 suggested that 42% of street children in Egypt are school dropouts, and 30% had never attended school at all. Many are ignorant about health, hygiene, and nutrition and deprived of services. As children living on the fringe subsist on an inadequate diet, they are often malnourished and most of them are illiterate.
“The phenomenon is, by its nature, extremely difficult to measure," he explained, “as classical information gathering exercises such as households surveys, are not designed to capture their situation. Moreover, being in the street is a status offence for children in several countries in the region."
12-year-old Saudi Girl in Divorce Battle with 80-Year-Old HusbandFebruary 9, 2010, Times Online
A 12-year-old has been married to an 80-year-old man in Saudi Arabia, where child marriage is common. She is to receive legal assistance in order to obtain a divorce from the Government in what could become a test case for banning child marriage in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has no minimum legal age for marriage, but there is a proposed law for a minimum age for marriage of between 16 and 18.. Activists hope that the case will be a watershed in the campaign to ban the practice.
The girl was married last year against her wishes and those of her mother.
A lawyer for the Saudi Human Rights commission said: " ... it is in the hands of the court but the commission is firmly on the child's side." If a divorce is not granted, the commission will pursue the matter through the appeals court.
Some judges and clerics have used the Prophet Muhammad's marriage to a nine-year-old girl as justification of child marriage, but Sheikh Abdullah al-Manie, a senior Saudi cleric, declared that the Prophet's marriage 14 centuries ago could not be used to justify child marriages today.
Saudi Arabia is building the world's largest desalination plant on the shores of the Persian Gulf where its current 28 desalination plants rely of fossil fuel.
The Kingdom is planning to build solar energy based desalination plants in order to save on energy costs, as well as be in tune with new environmental polices. This might be to secure membership in the International Renewable Energy Agency, otherwise known as IRENA.
The Kingdom may even become an exporter of solar energy as it has been doing with oil. It takes 1.5 million barrels per day to supply drinking water to Saudi citzens. The price of desalinated water has risen as oil prices have risen.
The 15 nations of the world with the lowest total fertility rates are predominantly Catholic countries. In addition, the data indicates that the outlook of Muslims is changing toward contraception. Imans and Mullas are more willing to put forth favorable fatawas on that issue.
All the non-Muslim nations that border on the Muslim world will be delighted, since that interface is where many of the armed conflicts are taking place, or have taken place in recent decades. Elsewhere on the website is data that shows armed conflict increases markedly with total fertility rate.
75% of the surface water in the Arab world originates from outside its borders, and many people there live well below the water poverty line of 500 cubic metres annually. At a conference in Jordan, this was discussed in a conference on water insecurity.
Climate change and its further impact on poorly-available Middle East water resources was also discussed, as were increased drought and desertification, scarcity of water resources, increased salinity of groundwater and the spread of pest epidemics and diseases caused by the phenomenon.
Jordanian residents rely on bi-weekly water deliveries to their homes, that fill up tanks located on roofs or in underground wells. Climate change has caused a 30% reduction in Jordan's surface water resources, as well as a decrease in the volume of rainfall and agricultural production, both of which the country and the Arab world heavily rely on.
The three-day meeting was organised by the Arab Administrative Development Organization, and included water experts from Iraq, Jordan, Oman, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
9 million Egyptians (out of a population of 83 million) over the age of 35 are unmarried, even though one is not considered a good Muslim until he or she marries.
The process of marriage here can break the bank. To purchase an apartment and gold for the bride, provide the money given by the man to the bride's family, and pay for the marriage itself typically requires thousands of pounds, a hardship which has caused many Egyptians to abandon or delay the idea of marriage.
Egypt: Population: Struggle to Keep Pace with Ever Increasing NumbersThe Financial Times Limited
Happy Childhood Association is in a poor district of Cairo. Patients await their turn to see the doctor, a family planning volunteer, with a big board of colourful drawings of the female reproductive organs.
Many people, especially those in urban areas, believe in the benefits of family planning, but Egypt's population of 78m continues to grow at an annual rate of 1.9% more than 1.5m new mouths to feed every year.
The pressures on services and resources created by the fast expanding population are a source of frustration to officials who argue that the development process cannot keep pace with the growth in numbers. A third of all Egyptians is under the age of 15, generating a huge challenge in meeting the demand for housing, health services, education and jobs. President Mubarak, warned that the population could more than double to 160m by 2050. He said it was an "urgent problem" and even if measures to slow down the rate of growth were successful, there could be 100m Egyptians by 2025 and 120m by 2050.
Planning programmes and television campaigns have created a degree of public awareness but there is still a gap between the size of the family people say they would like to have and the one they actually have.
The doctor at the Happy Childhood Association is sceptical about the determination of the women at her clinic to stick to having two children only. "They are still in their 20s and 30s, she says, see how many children they have by their 40s. Female education and government-driven family planning efforts have reduced the fertility rate to 3.2 children per woman down from 7.2 in the early 1960s. But to reach a static population the fertility rate needs to drop to two children per woman, -- replacement-level. But we have a culture of three children, This exists across the board, even among the educated.
Some groups want more children. Some believe in having sons, or they are afraid of using contraception, or they believe that children provide security for their old age.
The religious establishment is supportive of family planning, but a more negative message is often received from local religious leaders. Women tend to get their contraceptives from state clinics where they have trained doctors, but once there is a problem, they often resort to private doctors in the belief that a paid service is better.
Helping Child Brides Break FreeSeptember 25, 2008, CNN.com
In Yemen, a deeply conservative Middle East Muslim nation, brides as young as age 10 marrying men 3 times their age are not uncommon. Extreme poverty leads some parents to marry off their daughters, while others do it to protect the girls from spinsterhood, or from potentially shaming the family by getting involved with a man out of wedlock.
But young girls often end up beaten and raped. More than 50% of Yemeni women are married before they are 18; in some regions, 8- and 10-year-old brides are the norm.
The 1992 law that set Yemen's marriage age at 15 was later amended to allow even younger girls to wed with arental approval. However, they are not supposed to have sexual relations until they are "mature," a stipulation that's difficult to enforce.
Specialists believe that young girls giving birth at an early age has contributed to Yemen having one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
Over 100,000 electric cars will roll out in Israel by the end of 2011, and Denmark will provide a testing ground. This is a way that's profit able for business, cheap for drivers, and easy on the planet. Drivers purchase electricity on subscription, paying for unlimited miles, a certain number of miles per month, or pay-as-you-go. At battery exchange stations drivers swap in a fully charged one.
The Middle East and North Africa are forced to choose between growing more crops to feed an expanding population or preserving their supply of water.
This region has drained aquifers, sucked the salt from seawater and diverted the mighty Nile to make the deserts bloom. But they used so much water that today, some countries import 90% of their staples.
The population of the region is expected to reach nearly 600 million by 2050. Then the amount of fresh water for each person will be cut in half, and could inflame political tensions. These nations are turning to expensive schemes to maintain their food supply.
Djibouti is growing rice in solar-powered greenhouses, fed by groundwater and cooled with seawater, probably the most expensive rice on earth.
Several oil-rich nations have started searching for farmland in Pakistan and Sudan, with the goal of growing crops to be shipped home.
In Egypt, officials are looking into growing wheat on two million acres straddling the border with Sudan.
Saudi Arabia tapped aquifers to become self-sufficient in wheat production in the 1980s. This year, however, the Saudis will phase out the program because it used too much water.
Egypt dreamed of converting desert into farmland. The most ambitious of these projects is in Toshka where the farm was started in 1997. But no one has moved there, and only 30,000 acres or so have been planted.
The farm's manager says the Sahara is perfect for farming, as long as there is plenty of fertilizer and water. It's a nice project, but it needs a lot of money.
Mubarak calls his country's growing population an "urgent" problem that has exacerbated the food crisis.
Adding 1.3 million Egyptians each year is a daunting prospect for a country in which 2% of citizens live in poverty.
People used to buy pasta for their kids. But now that it cost's four and a half pounds, they give them bread instead.
Economists say that, rather than seeking to become self-sufficient with food, countries in this region should grow crops for which they have a competitive advantage, like produce or flowers. A 39-year-old runs a 150-acre tomato and pepper empire in the Negev Desert of Israel. His plants, grown in greenhouses with elaborate trellises and then exported to Europe, are irrigated with treated sewer water that he says is so pure he has to add minerals. The water is pumped through drip irrigation lines covered tightly with black plastic to prevent evaporation.
Israel has become the world's leader in maximizing agricultural output per drop of water. Egypt's new desert farms now use drip irrigation.
Another 200 million cubic meters of marginal water are to be recycled, in addition to promoting the establishment of desalination plants in Israel.
Four years of drought have created "a deep water crisis," forcing the country to cut farmers' quotas.
Under a 1959 treaty, Egypt is entitled to a disproportionate share of the Nile's water, that rankles some of its neighbors. It has built canals to bring Nile water to the Sinai Desert, and to the vast emptiness of Toshka.
An adviser says that the country has little choice. All of Egypt's farms and population are now crowded onto just 4% of its land.
Jordan: Social norms, gender preference hindering family planningJuly 21, 2008, Jordan Times (Amman)
A survey revealed that although over 90% of married men and women in Amman believe smaller families lead to a better quality of life, only some 50% adhere to the practice.
Gender preferences and the belief that large families lead to long-term security are behind this discrepancy.
Despite campaigns promoting the benefits of having smaller families, the fertility trend has not changed.
Although many couples are content with only two children, the fertility rate has not changed over recent years, families still tend to lean towards having four children. Some 94% of married women and 90% of married men believe having smaller families leads to a better quality of life.
The percentage of those who would adhere to having a family of two children, was 44% of married women and 50% of married men.
Married women back in 2005 desired to have 4.3 children compared to 4.1 children in 2008. For married men, the number also decreased slightly, from 4.2 children in 2005 to 4.1 this year.
Married women continue to prefer boys over girls. Gender preference has an impact on contraceptive use, which showed families with more boys are more likely to use contraceptives.
About 44% of couples who use contraceptives abandon the practice after 12 months.
Social norms are steering such trends.
Sometimes women have an ideal vision of what they want but then that reality changes once they face life in the real world. It is an issue that can be addressed through dialogue and ongoing awareness, improved counselling by and education of women. Education and women's empowerment remain a key to changing society's views of women primarily as caregivers.
Global food shortages have forced the Middle East and North Africa to choose between growing more crops to feed an expanding population or preserving their scant supply of water.
For decades nations in this region have drained aquifers, and diverted the Nile to make the deserts bloom. But those projects used so much water that it remained more practical to import food. Some countries import 90% or more of their staples.
The population of the region has more than quadrupled since 1950, to 364 million, and is expected to reach nearly 600 million by 2050. By that time the amount of fresh water available for each person will be cut in half and declining resources could inflame political tensions.
The countries of the region are caught between rising food prices and declining water availability. Losing confidence in world markets, these nations are turning to expensive schemes to maintain their food supply.
Djibouti is growing rice in solar-powered greenhouses, fed by groundwater and cooled with seawater, producing the most expensive rice on earth.
Several oil-rich nations, including Saudi Arabia, have started searching for farmland in politically unstable countries with the goal of growing crops to be shipped home.
In Egypt, where a shortage of subsidized bread led to rioting in April, government officials say they are looking into growing wheat on two million acres straddling the border with Sudan.
Nutritional self-sufficiency presents challenges that are not easily overcome. Saudi Arabia tapped aquifers to become self-sufficient in wheat production in the 1980s. This year, the Saudis said they would phase out the program because it uses too much water.
Egypt, too, has for decades dreamed of converting huge swaths of desert into lush farmland. When the Toshka farm was started in 1997, the Egyptian president, compared its ambitions to building the pyramids, involving roughly 500,000 acres of farmland and tens of thousands of residents. But only 30,000 acres or so have been planted.
The Sahara is perfect for farming, as long as there is plenty of fertilizer and water. "You can grow anything on this land, but it needs a lot of money."
Adding 1.3 million Egyptians each year to the 77 million squeezed into an inhabited area roughly the size of Taiwan is a daunting prospect. Economists say that countries in this region should grow crops for which they have a competitive advantage, like flowers, which do not require much water and can be exported for top dollar.
Israel has become the world's leader in maximizing agricultural output per drop of water, and many believe that it serves as a viable model for other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Israeli government strictly regulates how much water farmers can use and requires many of them to irrigate with treated sewer water, pumped to farms in purple pipes. Another 200 million cubic meters of marginal water are to be recycled.
Egypt has the Nile and is entitled to a disproportionate share of the river's water, a point that rankles some of its neighbors. It has built canals to bring Nile water to the Sinai Desert, to desert lands between Cairo and Alexandria and to the vast emptiness of Toshka.
Egypt is establishing an estimated 200,000 acres of farmland in the desert each year, even as it loses 60,000 acres of its best farmland to urbanization. For farmers the new buildings not only ruin the rural tranquility of their ancient fields, but they also reduce yields.
Over 80% of Yemenis know about family planning, but the problem lies in practice. The National Population Council (NPC) has approved a plan to reduce the fertility rate - one of the highest in the world.
The NPC plan will run until 2010, with the help of 22 governmental and non-governmental bodies.
The strategy needs US$8 million, half of contributed by donors and the other half by the government.
The plan involves raising awareness about population issues by training religious and community leaders, TV and radio programmes, and adding population studies to curriculums at academic institutions.
The NPC aims to reduce the current fertility rate from 6.1% to 4.0% by 2015. This depends on getting funds.
Yemen's population is increasing by 700,000 every year.
Efforts would be made to offer free family planning services. Some thought family planning would lead to health problems and was not allowed in Islam.
According to UNFPA, Yemen's population may reach 60 million in 2050 if the high annual growth rate continues at 3.01%. About 2.2 million new jobs would be needed, and 14.7 million children in primary school, requiring 490,000 teachers.
The Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi announced a plan 2008-2012 covering aviation, maritime, public transport, and highways.
The plan aims to to deliver an effective transport system that contributes to economic growth, quality of life and environmental sustainability. The integration of all transport, and aligning it with the future needs. Abu Dhabi is witnessing growth in the economic, industrial and tourism sectors, which need to be supported by a strong and modern transport infrastructure. Department of Transport has set out priorities that come in conformity with the Government strategy following global best practice, in pursuit of a comfortable, fast and reliable transport network in and between the cities and suburbs of Abu Dhabi.
The Department of Transport priorities are:
Planning and performance management to ensure integration between transport and the transport master plan.
The expansion of the air transport network in support of the aviation growth through the implementation of the Open Skies policy. Planning to build integrated seaports following the highest global standards. Khalifa Port at Taweela will allow for the future handling of 80 million tones. New public transport solutions to connect Abu Dhabi and its suburbs to other parts of the Emirate.
The implementation of best practice of highways and its infrastructure to ensure the highest standards of safety and security.
Overseeing the quality of passenger, cargo and airline services offered at the airport. The expansion of the air transport coverage through the implementation of the Open Skies policy. tion with other transport sectors.
Ensure efficiency at sea ports in the Emirate, in environmental sustainability and integration with other sectors. The development of transport services, the connection of all cities, suburbs and regions in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Minimize the negative environmental effects of public transportion energy sources.
The priorities of the Highways Sector are the extension of the highways network throughout the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to cope with current and future urban expansion and population growth. The expansion and maintenance of the highway network to ensure seamless travel and the continuity of the highways network quality and effectiveness while implementing and following global best practice in all areas of activity.
Arab environmentalists know that, when it comes to leadership to combat climate change, the Arab World was not the best example.
Arab countries that build their economies on fossil energy, and middle-income countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt and Morocco that depend mostly on imported oil, are not at the fore front of policies and projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its per capita production rate of greenhouse gases is almost identical to the EU. This puts pressures on the region to start reducing its rate of greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is a major threat to the security of the Middle East. Existing tensions over access to water are almost certain to intensify in this region leading to further political instability. In a recent report by FAO it was stated that crop growing may become unsustainable in some areas as a result of the interactions of factors. Maize yields in North Africa, could fall by 15-25% with a three degree centigrade rise in temperature.
The 19th session of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment witnessed the agreement of the all Arab countries to deal with climate change issues. The declaration stated the need for the production and use of cleaner fuels, improving the efficiency of energy use, expanding the use of cleaner production techniques and environmental friendly technologies.
The Arab world has became active in developing new technologies for reduction of greenhouse emissions. The beginning of construction of the first carbon-neutral, waste-free city in Abu Dhabi, will showcase the best available technologies for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The city will use 75% less electricity and half the water of conventional cities. The city's narrow thoroughfares will draw on the traditional architecture of the old walled towns of the Middle East.
In the last meeting of the OPEC Ministers in Riyadh four Arab Gulf countries have decided to develop a US $ 750 million research fund for Climate Change. This is to support more efficient petroleum technologies for the protection of the environment, and promote the development of technologies such as carbon capture and storage. An estimated $120 billion investment is anticipated in the industry over the next 10 years. If this package of initiatives can be linked together in a shift towards sustainability and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Arab World will be able to declare its role as an active contributor in the global efforts to save the Earth.
A critical factor in environmental sustainability is the size of the human population and, for reduced population growth, the female status.
When women have the same status, rights and opportunities as men, population growth is more likely to slow and eventually end. This is based on statistics from the UN. An example of a "gender-sustainability gap" is Yemen, which is one of the poorest countries and has severe resource limitations, especially a lack of water. It also has very low female status and an extremely high fertility rate of 3.4%. The population is expected to increase from 22 million today to 71 million by 2050. Only 39% of girls are enrolled in primary school.
Yemen is a male-dominated society, with cultural and religious values that place great value on a large number of male offspring and little value on the status of girls and women.
Women must spend hours every day collecting water from rapidly dwindling sources.
In 19 of 21 of the country's aquifers, more water is being consumed than can be recharged. People must pay for water trucks to bring water to their villages.
Nearly 75% of Yemenis still live in the countryside, but a drift to the cities has overwhelmed urban water utilities.
During the past five years America has spent $3,000,000 million US dollars on winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis. America has buried nearly 4,000 troops and there are over 50,000 wounded and disabled in daily treatment by the VA. Last week the DoD admitted that the cost of the Iraq War has been $12,000,million per month.
Women: Iraq's Persecuted Majority; in the Past Five Years, Surveys Have Found a Staggering Rise in Domestic Abuse and a Precipitous Drop in the Number of Girls in SchoolMarch 18, 2008, Globe and Mail
It's one of the biggest of Iraq's many tragedies that although there are no reliable estimates, the country's Minister For Women says there could be as many as two million widows in Iraq. The figures are a testament to Saddam Hussein's murderous rule, wars and harsh United Nations sanctions; then the U.S, invasion and the violence it inspired.
Mr. Hussein's Iraq was a secular society and women and men were equal before the law.
Surveys conducted by Women for Women International found a rise in domestic abuse during the past five years, and a drop in the number of girls being enrolled in school.
Tens of thousands have been forced into prostitution. In recent months, there's even been a disturbing rise in the number of women suicide bombers.
Many women in Baghdad say they only leave their homes when it's absolutely necessary. On the occasions they do go outside, most women wear a head scarf and form-concealing dress to avoid drawing the attention of the militias, that impose a harsh form of sharia law.
Five years after they were supposed to have been liberated, the women rallied under the banner "Stop neglecting women. Stop killing women. Stop creating widows."
Security is tight around Narmin Othman, who holds two portfolios - Environment Minister and acting minister for women. She spends much of her time moving between her home and office, which are both in the fortified and in the U.S.-protected green zone. When she goes out in the city, she does so in an armed convoy.
Iraq's new constitution is remarkable for the Muslim world in that it requires 25% of seats in parliament be allocated to women, with a similar quota of positions in the senior bureaucracy. But the chaos in Iraq has allowed groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq to terrorize women who don't follow their harsh interpretation of Islam. A clause in Iraq's new constitution allows different family and divorce laws for each religious sect, something that has made sharia - which allows the man to unilaterally divorce the woman, but not vice versa, the principle in many parts of Iraq.
Her efforts to have that clause reopened have hit the conservative beliefs of her fellow ministers, including Prime Minister al-Maliki.
It Basra, now under the control of Shia militias, graffiti on the walls warn women not to wear makeup or go outside without proper Islamic dress. Police say more than 40 women have been killed in recent months for violating the dress code. In two cases, the woman's children were slain along with her.
Women for Women International, a non-governmental organization recently surveyed 1,513 women. Here's some of what they found.
10.7 % Were widowed
70.5 % Didn't know whether they had the right to move freely
52.7 % Didn't know whether they had the right to an education
76.2 % Said girls in their family were not allowed to attend school
56.7 % Found it harder for girls to attend school than before the war
52 % Didn't know whether they had the right to political participation
63.9 % Felt that violence against women was increasing
67.9 % Found it less likely now to be able to walk down the street as they please
Egyptian President Mubarak warned that the unchecked rise of the population would wipe away all country's economic growth.
Mubarak's remarks came at a meeting to address the shortages of subsidized bread that have hurt millions of the poor as well as a lack of housing. "The unrestricted growth of the population affects the quality of the citizen's life and the nation as well," Mubarak stressed the need to drop the birth rate in Egypt where the population has tripled since 1952 to 76 million. The president has often cited population growth as a major obstacle to the country's economic development. Mubarak told the government to raise awareness over the effects of a rising population on drinking water, the sewage system and hospitals and schools.
The ministers also discussed how to build new towns to absorb the increase in the population and more industrial projects to provide jobs. But many Egyptians see large families as a source of financial security.
Rising food prices, stagnant wages and an inefficient and corrupt distribution system have led to hours-long lines for subsidized bread. At least 10 Egyptians have died in incidents at bread lines this year.
Health Minister announced an $80 million family-planning campaign with the slogan "Two children per family -- a chance for a better life."
Egypt's fertility rate, 2.7 children born per woman, places it 88th. The US ranks 126th with 2.1 children per woman.
Egypt has had aggressive birth-control campaigns in the past. TV ads in the 1990s urged condom use, showing a small family ascending into prosperity and a large one descending into poverty.
Gulf leaders should wake up to the environmental costs of their rush to attract wealthy visitors. News about urban developments in the UAE has been greeted with a mixture of awe and uncertainty across the world. Growth rates of 16% in the resource-poor emirate of Dubai reinforce optimism, the question remains: who is taking ownership of the sustainability agenda in the UAE?
Demand for new developments is ever increasing. In Dubai, hotel occupancy levels are at over 80% and rates are at record highs. Dubai's population is a measly 1.4 million people. And the entire UAE is home to 4.1 million, 80% of whom are foreigners.
Are Dubai's plans for 15 million visitors to contribute 20% of GDP are realistic? The strategy of Dubai authorities is "build it and they will come". But with neighbouring emirates also planning expansion, what happens if demand wanes?
What is most troubling is the damage they are causing the environment. Palm Islands has clouded Gulf waters with silt. Construction has buried coral reefs, oyster beds and subterranean sea grass, while the disruption of natural currents is leading to the erosion of beaches.
Water Fears Lead Saudis to End Grain OutputFebruary 27, 2008, unknown
Saudi Arabia plans to halt wheat production by 2016 because of concerns about scarce water resources. The Saudi government has not publicly given details, which comes as global cereal prices surge. Saudi Arabia will begin reducing production annually by 12.5% and will use imports to bridge the gap. The US estimates that Saudi Arabia's wheat imports will reach 3.4m tons by 2016, which could be in the top 15 largest importers of the cereal. The country at present produces about 2.5m tons annually.
The increase in demand would tighten global wheat supplies even further. The US report said that "the main reason for change in wheat production was concern over the depletion of fossil water since the crop is grown on 100% central pivot irrigation. The Saudi administration launched an agricultural development programme in the 1970s, including the establishment of irrigation networks, to become self-sufficient for some food supplies. Saudi Arabia became a net exporter and by 1991 production had reached 3.8m tons.
Demand for water is increasing rapidly as the population has swelled from 7m in 1974 to about 24m, with the government seeking to boost industry. The country has no permanent rivers or lakes and very little rainfall. The government has relied on dams to trap seasonal floods, tens of thousands of deep wells and 27 desalination plants. It is so expensive to produce water in Saudi Arabia.
A leading Bahraini MP accused the government of nationalising expatriates and covering up the kingdom's soaring population. Bahrain's population is made up of majority Shi'ite Muslims, but the kingdom is ruled by a Sunni dynasty. The government has been accused of naturalising Sunni Muslims in an effort to change the demography.
Sheikh Ali Salman called for the sacking of Cabinet Affairs Minister, accusing him of either failing to keep track of population growth or hiding the figures. In response a written response, revealed Bahrain's population to be 1,046,814, of which 529,446 are nationals.
We thought the population was just 750,000," Sheikh Salman said in parliament. Bahrain's local population should be 447,531 today, given the population's annual growth rate of 2.7%. "We are shocked to see it at 529,446. This shows that the increase is the result of criminal political naturalisation," he added.
Naturalisation had robbed Bahrainis of at least 10,000 jobs.
The population growth had impacted the quality of education and healthcare, increasing the average number of students in classrooms and how long people had to wait for hospital appointments.
Responding, Sheikh Ahmed said the expanding local population was due to a rise in the birth rate, which stood at 3.6% and not 2.7%.
According to data from U.N. Statistical Division, Arab birth rates in general are dropping dramatically, and the number of births among women under 20 is dropping more sharply. The only places in the world where high birth rates are the norm are in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Yemen and the Palestinian territories.
The average number of children born to women of childbearing age in Niger is 7.2. The lowest is in Hong Kong, with 1.
A level of 2.1 is required to keep a population stable. Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Lebanon, are either below or very close to that stability level of 2.1. Algeria and Morocco, at 2.4, are dropping fast. Some other Islamic countries are also in this zone of population stability or decline, including Turkey (2.1), and Indonesia (2.2). Iran is listed at 2.0, but recent data suggests that it is around 1.7. The world's highest birthrate among adolescents is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 222 births per year among teenage girls. In Britain, it is 24, in Algeria (7), Morocco (19), Oman (10), Kuwait (13), Qatar (17) the UAE (18) and Tunisia (7). While Jordan (25) and Saudi Arabia (28) are close to the British level.
The birthrate of mothers of North African origin in France drops to the local norm within two generations. The birthrate of Muslim and Arab women who did not emigrate is plummeting in a similar fashion.
These figures carry important implications. They also mean that by the middle of this century, the Middle Eastern countries will start to worry about the growing numbers of elderly pensioners that now alarm Europe and threaten to undermine its welfare states.
Demand for energy both in Abu Dhabi and abroad is growing. Electricity demand in the UAE is growing 10% per year. Abu Dhabi, has the world's third-highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita, and is keen to improve its environment while providing energy for the emirate's growth.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi announced that the government would dedicate $15 billion to a spread of 'green' energy endeavours, including the world's largest hydrogen power plant.
The proposed 500 MW plant will be a joint venture between Masdar, and British Petroleum (BP) and Rio Tinto. based in the UK and Australia. Masdar will hold a 60% stake in the development and BP and Rio Tinto will hold shares of 20%.
Funds will also be allocated for the development of Masdar City, the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city. Powered by sources of renewable energy, the 6 sq km city aims to house 50,000 residents and over 1000 businesses focused on sustainability and alternative energy. The city is scheduled to be completed in 2013, with construction to begin next month. It is being designed with input from the World Wildlife Fund.
Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) is working in partnership with Masdar to create alternative energy solutions to power new developments on Sir Bani Yas, an island that is home to the largest wind turbine in the Middle East. The 65 metre high turbine, manufactured by Vestas Denmark, has a capacity of 850 KW per hour, and helps to power facilities on the island in conjunction with the national electrical grid.
Sir Bani Yas is at the centre of a new eight-island 'eco-resort' and the developers plan to utilise solar and wind solutions.
The government hopes to position the Masdar initiative as a key component of its economic growth. According to a group statement, Masdar aims to create a new economic sector in Abu Dhabi, turning it into an exporter of technology.
Investments in the alternative energy business reached $70.9 billion in 2006. The profitability of Abu Dhabi's environmental programmes have been questioned by those who point out that the technology needed for sustainable development may not be commercially feasible.
U.A.E.: Inflation a Major Policy ChallengeJanuary 28, 2008, Emirates Business
Inflation in the GCC will remain the key policy challenge this year. According to a report, GCC governments see high inflation as a welfare cost and are attempting to overcome it via higher subsidies, allowances, wage increases, caps on rents, etc.
With rising costs hidden by subsidies and transfers, domestic demand will continue to grow, the report said. The Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI) said the decision by the governments to impose a 5% cap on rent increases was not likely to tackle the challenge.
What is needed is a package of measures to check inflation and resolve the problem, which has started to put pressure on the domestic economy. According to the report, high inflation poses a challenge to the sustainability of the GCC's business model. The strategy of diversifying away from an oil-dependent economy is well grounded. However, resources are still scarce in terms of human capital and physical absorptive capacity is limited.
Inflation is one enemy, as it impacts the lower income segment. We need to manage inflation.
Most of the inflation in the UAE is caused by supply bottlenecks. The UAE will obviate these supply bottlenecks through: an increasing expatriate population and mega infrastructure projects. Inflation threatens the sustainability of both of these channels. There has been some scaling back of major projects, and this could fuel inflationary pressures further.
High wage increases and transfers and subsidies are likely to erode fiscal surpluses this year.
The US Fed is likely to keep cutting interest rates, and expects Fed rates of 1% by the first quarter of next year. GCC countries will introduce a significant stimulus to their economies if they continue following US monetary policy. Policy in the Gulf would be too expansionary, as real interest rates would plunge further. GDP growth in the Gulf will slow down to 5.7% this year, from an average of 7.3%over the past five years.
Qatar has logged the region's highest average GDP over the past 5 years with a growth rate of 11%. Inflation in Qatar is the highest in the GCC.
The UAE's annual GDP growth has averaged just under 10% over the past five years, Saudi Arabia has averaged 5% per year rowth in the 5 year period post-2002.
There will be too much money chasing too few goods and services resulting in higher prices. Inflation in the GCC is driven by supply bottlenecks but we expect the GCC to spend more of its fiscal surplus in the coming years and oil prices will stay high.
Rapid population growth and a lack of human capital tighten supply bottlenecks and feed into inflation through high wage increases. The total worth of construction projects under way in the whole Middle East was almost $1 trillion last year.
Contract costs have prompted project sponsors to postpone or even cancel some of their capital projects. The number of projects has declined by 10% per cent across the region, except in the UAE.
The fiscal stance of the UAE has been prudent over the past 5 years, with revenue growth outstripping overall spending. The budget surplus is likely to have peaked at 29% of GDP last year.
The bank expects the government to use its surplus to finance its mega projects. External debt reached 50% of GDP at end-2006. The UAE is likely to have a surplus of $45bn (Dh165.1bn) last year, most of which the bank expects to be fed into the country's sovereign wealth funds.
While Qatar saw the region's highest average GDP 11% and population growth 5% annually over the past five years, it has led the region in inflation rate.
The housing supply will help lower inflation, but, Qatari inflation is broader-based. The bank forecast Qatar's average inflation at 13% for 2008.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have the next highest inflation forecast for this year. With strong capital inflows, loose monetary policy, weakening fiscal prudence and imported inflation, we expect consumer-price index inflation to further increase to 12% in 2008. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are leading the way in non-oil growth.
Yemen suffers an imbalance between annual rainfall and water demand. Average renewable water resources are 125 cubic meters per capita, approximately 10% of the amount consumed by a Middle Easterner. Yemen is among the 10 water-poorest countries in the world.
The water volume in Yemen is about 5.1 billion cubic meters. Rainwater is 93% of the total water resources, while surface water, ground water and unconventional source waters (seawater distillation, reuse of sewer water, etc.) represent 4.86%, 2.08%, and 00.01% respectively.
The total water demand is increasing from 4.5 billion cubic meters in 1990 to an estimated 13 billion cubic meters in 2020. The current demand has three main areas: agriculture (95%), households (3.2%) and industries (1.8%).
Water shortage is expected to reach 15 billion cubic meters in 2020. The problem is getting worse due to pollution from human activity which negatively impacts water quality. There is a possibility for increased untreated sewer water to make its way down to the water-bearing layer. The problem is going to exacerbate in the future, given the quick-paced population growth. Water pollution primarily affects the the poor and marginalized who are more vulnerable. They are mainly herders and small farmers whose livelihood depends on water. The shortage and low quality of water affect the poor urban centers where it is difficult to find any source of water.
The importance of water is not limited to drinking and irrigation to produce crops and food but it is important for sustainable development because water availability is linked to public health, poverty, education and development in general. Water scarcity and competition for it may be a cause for economic and social instability, especially as 53% of Yemen's workforce is employed in the agricultural sector.
Consecutive Yemeni governments have adopted improper measures for managing water affairs. Usually focused on cost management, which implies that the government provided fresh water at the lowest cost possible. It gave little attention to fair distribution of water.
Estimates indicate that the cost of facilities reached $113 million, an average of $1.20 per cubic meter, which is high by all means.
Qat, which covers some 40% of the irrigated area, consumes 60% of the usable water in Yemen and is around double the volume of water consumed by the city of Sana'a.
To maintain water resources and optimize their use could be achieved through water demand management (WDM), a package of measures to urge individuals to regulate the quantity and price of water, the way they access it and the way they dispose of it. It is necessary to adopt a comprehensive view of water as an essential component of any good governance strategy. Water issues must be incorporated into school curricula and become a subject of scientific research and knowledge transfer activities.
Yemen's rapid population growth is hampering efforts to combat poverty and unemployment, and could threaten social stability. There was a widening gap between population growth and economic growth: Yemen has one of the highest population growth rates in the world, 3.2% per annum, but its economy is shrinking.
GDP growth between 2001 and 2007 was below what was planned: In 2001-2005 it was 4.5% instead of the planned 5.6%. In 2006 and 2007 it was 3.8% and 2.6%. Unemployment increased from 13.7% in 1999 to 16.3% in 2004: the labour force increased 4.3% per year but the number of jobs increased by only 3.7% per year.
There is a natural increment of 700,000 people a year who need health care and education. Population growth is putting pressure on the country's resources. If the situation remains, the state would not be able to meet the demands. The state cannot cover the demand for new schools. The number of students increased from two million in 1990 to 4.7 million in 2004, while 40% of children do not attend primary school.
About 45.3% of the population is illiterate, and primary education enrollment is only 62.5%. 45% of the population is under 15.
Health care services cover only 50% of the population. The infant mortality rate is 77.2 per 1,000, and 18% of infants are born prematurely. At least 65% of women have no access to health care. Reproductive health services are at 25% of health centres. Maternal mortality is 366 deaths per 100,000 births. Health care for pregnant mothers is very weak and 84% of births take place at home.
Yemen's population in 2004 was 21,385,161. The average number of people per family was 7.1, and the fertility rate for each woman was 6.1. 37% of infants were born with less than a two-year interval between births.
It is recommended that health workers be encouraged to work in remote areas and raise awareness of the dangers of early marriage. They also recommended that laws make 18 the minimum legal age for marriage, and to criminalise female circumcision.
Yemen had 2,834,437 houses but of these only 15.9% had access to a sanitary network.
Yemen's population is scattered over more than 11,000 urban and rural settlements, with 25% in urban areas. Population density is 30 persons per square kilometre.
Most settlements are small, scattered and in remote areas, which makes providing services difficult, and water resources are also problem: The population concentration in the central highlands is leading to groundwater depletion.
Only 32% of Yemeni married women use birth control, though 96% of both men and women are aware of at least one type. The report, covered 1,400 men and women from 15-49 and revealed that 34% of women in urban areas use birth control, 14% of rural women. Contraceptive pills are the most commonly used with 13%, followed by the IUD with 6% and injections with 4%. 7% of married women use traditional methods such as periodic abstinence, withdrawal and breastfeeding.
The main reasons for discontinuing contraceptive use was: it is bad for health (37%), they wanted to get pregnant (28%) they were told to stop by their spouse (11%). The reasons for non-use were: not wanting to use family planning (36%), their spouse not agreeing with family planning (24%), not knowing family planning exists (10%) and perceived bad side effects (6%).
The mean age at marriage was 22 for men and 17 for women. Half of the women had up to 4 pregnancies while just under a third reported more than seven. Married women reporting a range of 1-17 pregnancies, but only 1-13 living children. There was a preference for male children.
The major reasons why women stop using FP is either because of the adverse health effects (37%), or because they want more children (28%), 11% were told to stop by their spouse. Others noted that the cost was an issue. The woman stops: "When her husband asks her to because he is the decision-maker". Women also stop FP to protect their marriage “when her husband wants to marry another woman because his financial status becomes better".
The reasons stated for currently not using a method was 36% not wanting to use family planning, 24% because of spouse not agreeing, 10% not knowing about family planning and 6% because of negative side effects of FP.
The study recommended that women especially those in the rural areas should be subject to educational campaigns and services. Outreach workers need to be well informed and able to disseminate BCC materials with correct information about how contraception works. However, accurate knowledge about the ways HIV is transmitted is not consistent with knowledge of how to avoid transmission. Education campaigns need to have clear messages that are consistently repeated through the media, such as limiting the number of sexual partners or staying faithful to one partner, using a condom at every non-monogamous sexual encounter etc.
More efforts could be focused on sensitizing men about the risks of having more than one sexual partner/wife in terms of STIs and HIV/AIDS. The use of condoms as both an STI barrier and family planning method needs to emphasized.
The ministry has put a five-year national strategy of birth control in three stages and now the strategy is in its third and final stage. The ministry announced in the beginning of last year free birth control services, available to 85% of the country.
All fathers and mothers have to know the importance of reproduction health as a result of an increasing mortality rate in Yemen because of early marriage. Marie Stopes, within nine years, could broaden its activities to reach five clinics for reproduction health, in addition to reproduction services.
The social marketing project is part of the Yemeni-Germany program for reproduction health and aims to change society behavior in regards to birth control and sexual transmitted diseases. During a survey, it was found that the rate of the people who use birth control methods increased from 13% to 25% in the year 2006 and this rate will reach 33% in the year 2013.
A campaign to lower Turkey's maternal and infant mortality rate reached 66% of the population.
The "Let My Baby Live" media campaign is a joint project by the Ministry of Health and the EU and brought together celebrities from the theater, film and fashion world. The campaign was carried out in 16 provinces that have limited access to health care.
Interviews were held with the households, adolescent girls, young mothers in the 15-49 aged group as well as their relatives and husbands. They were informed about the importance of the medical check-ups before, during and after pregnancy.
Maternal mortality is one of the biggest problems in Turkey. Mothers, their husbands and relatives are unconscious of the fact that women should to undergo medical examination before, during and after the pregnancy. Approximately 387 maternal deaths occur every year in Turkey and 62% of them are preventable.
The demographic balance in the Land of Israel is not a threat to the Jewish majority; predictions of Arab population growth have been grossly overstated, with Jewish birthrates in pre-1967 Israel consistently increasing and Arab birthrates consistently dropping.
The claim that Jews are doomed to become a minority is in direct contradiction of demographic reality. Such a claim has yielded demographic fatalism, which has dominated Israel. It has become a basis for critical security decisions. However, demographic fatalism has been nurtured by erroneous assumptions.
In demographic information made public the decline in Arab fertility rates within the 1967 borders exceeded the ICBS's own predictions by 20 years. The latest ICBS statistics show a Jewish fertility rate that is higher than the ICBS's most generous forecasts.
According to the study, the Jewish birthrate has increased from 2.6 to 2.8 from 1996 to 2006. During the same period, Muslim Arabs have seen a drop in birthrates from 4.7 to 4.0.
Since 1948, the ICBS has tended to under-project Jewish fertility, over-project Arab fertility, ignore the scope of Arab emigration and minimize the scope of potential immigration.
A World Bank study revealed a gap between the predictions of population growth and the actual numbers of children registered for first grade. There had been an 8% drop as of September 2006 in the number of children registered for school through fifth grade. This was in opposition to the forecast of a 24% increase.
Jewish births in Israel rose in 2006, reversing the trend that saw a drop in the average number of births per woman. Fertility rates for Jewish woman in Israel increased from 2.8 children per woman in 2005 to 2.9 in 2006 while the average size of Muslim families continued to drop from 4.6 in 2000 to 4.0 in 2006.
The Christian Arab sector had the lowest birth rate in 2006 and has dropped from 2.7 in 1996 to 2.2 per woman. Overall, rate stood at 2.8 children per family, mostly as a result of Jewish growth.
In 2006, 71% of babies were born to Jewish mothers, 23% to Muslim mothers, 2% to Druze and 1% to Christian-Arab women. Another 3% were to mothers whose religious status is undetermined.
Of the 148,170 babies born in Israel last year, 51.3% were boys. The number of births in 2006 was up 3% from 2005.
This is 105.6 boys for every 100 girls. In 2006, 46% of births were to mothers over 30, compared to only 29% in 1980.
Muslim women are also the youngest mothers, with an average age of 23.2 for their first birth. 3,966 babies were born last year to women under 20, and 20% of these were a second or later birth. Birthrates among women under 20 are dropping. Out-of-wedlock births made up 5.7% among Jewish women and 5,896 in total; 62% of these were to women who had never been married. Multiple births accounted for 4.4% of the total, 96% of them twins.
Few Yemeni women use contraception. A study, conducted by researchers in Sana'a University, determined the factors influencing the use of contraception among married women. There were 915 female participants in the study from the al-Hodeidah, Ibb, Sada'a and Mareb governorates. Among them, 46% came from rural areas, 60% were aged between 21 and 30 and 77% were housewives.
About 54% of women fall pregnant one to four times; 47% give birth to one to three children; and 2% have more than 10 children, 31% miscarry one to three times.
About 64% do not use contraception. The highest rate of contraception use was 43% in Sada'a , compared to 29% from Mareb governorate.
The pill is used by 47%, 24% use the coil, whilst condoms are rarely used with just 1%. About 59% of urban women use family planning compared to 40% of rural women.
About 37% of women from the Ibb, Sada'a and Mareb governorates refuse to use any contraceptive techniques because they want more children. Husbands of 36% of women from the al-Hodeidah governorate refuse to allow their wives to use any contraception.
About 22% of women use contraception to give themselves and their babies a chance of a better life.
About 52% of the women using contraception are between 31 to 40. Just 27% were between 15 to 20 years old.
But contraception use is linked to education. About 54% of educated women use contraception, compared to 26% of illiterate ones. About 52% of women using means have educated husbands.
Of the women who use contraception, 89% live within 3 miles of health centers which provide the methods. The study, recommended the government establish more health centers in both urban and rural areas, and provide such facilities with skilled nurses.
The study advised the Ministry of Public Health and Population to supply the centers with the different contraceptives and to ensure they are free. It also urged the media to raise awareness of family planning; doctors and employees to offer more advice on family planning; and couples to actively discuss family planning and contraceptive techniques.
During the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the most commonly practiced method of birth control was the withdrawal method. According to scholars, withdrawal is permissible but thought to be reprehensible, since it deprives the woman of her right to sexual satisfaction and to bear children, if she so desires. Scholars agree that withdrawal should not be practiced unless women agree to it.
Since modern methods of birth control have the same aim it can be assumed that modern birth control is also permissible.
The population of Yemen in 2003 was estimated at 20,010,000, the 51st most populated among the 193 nations of the world. In that year approximately 3% of the population was over 65, with another 48% under 15. There were 103 males for every 100 females in 2003. The annual population growth rate for 2005 is 3.52%, with the projected population for 2015 at 30,677,000. The population density in 2002 was 35 per sq km. Most of the population is concentrated in the Tihama foothills and central highlands of Yemen. Most of southern Yemen is very sparsely populated.
Egypt Plan to Green Sahara Desert Stirs ControversyOctober 08, 2007, Reuters
The lush fields of cauliflower, apricot trees and melon is proof of Egypt's determination to turn its deserts green.
Egypt is slowly greening the sand that covers almost all of its territory as it seeks to create more space for its growing population.
With only 5% of the country is habitable; almost all of Egypt's 74-million people live along the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea. Crowded living conditions will likely get worse as Egypt's population is expected to double by 2050.
The government is keen to encourage people to move to the desert with an estimated $70-billion plan to reclaim 1,2-million hectacres of desert over the next 10 years. The government will need to tap into scarce water resources of the Nile River as rainfall is almost non-existent in Egypt.
The plan has raised controversy among some who say turning the desert green is neither practical nor sustainable.
The director of the Stockholm International Water Institute in Sweden questions the wisdom of using precious water resources to grow in desert areas unsuited to cultivation and where water will evaporate quickly.
The scope of the reclamations could add to regional tension over Nile water sharing arrangements. Egypt's project called "Toshka", would expand Egypt's farmland by about 40% by 2017, using about five billion cubic metres of water a year.
That worries neighbours to the south who are already unhappy about Nile water sharing arrangements.
Ethiopia, where the Blue Nile begins, receives no formal allocation of Nile water, but it is heavily dependent on the water for its own agricultural development.
The Toshka project will complicate the challenge of achieving a more equitable allocation of the Nile River. But other experts suggest that it may be more imperative for Egypt's government to mollify its own population rather than heed its neighbours concerns.
Overcrowding is straining infrastructure in the cities and the government is worried that opposition groups such as the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which has a fifth of the seats in Parliament, might capitalise on discontent.
A desert reclamation project last decade, south of Cairo, destroyed much of the Wadi Raiyan oasis and its population of slender horned gazelles.
A lodge, which costs $400 per night and has attracted guests such as Britain's Prince Charles and Belgium's Queen Paola, shows that the desert would be better used for ecotourism than farming.
At the Desert Development Centre, irrigation water comes through a canal connected to the Nile, about 15km away, where it is used to keep crops flourishing and grass green for hardy hybrid cows to graze.
Experts believe greening the Sahara might be Egypt's best hope of bringing prosperity to its people.
Proximity to markets in Europe and a lack of pests, which usually thrive in humid environments, make desert farming economically viable. Water supply, Tutwiler said, shouldn't be an issue at least for the next ten years. It makes sense, he says, to expand agriculture onto land that was once useless.
UN Seeks Aid to Bolster Health of Displaced IraqisSeptember 19, 2007, Reuters
Five UN agencies appealed to donors for $85 million to combat illness and malnutrition among more than 2 million Iraqis who have fled war and violence in their country. The funds would be used to improve access to reproductive and child health care, as well as treatment for cancer patients, trauma victims and amputees.
Vaccination must be reinforced in many cases, while unemployment and economic woes among the displaced had caused rising malnutrition. The health needs of more than 2 million displaced Iraqis should not be ignored. Many have serious medical conditions. Iraqis streaming into other countries over the past year had put an enormous strain on host governments.
The Youth Peer Education Network (Y-Peer) works in the areas of adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Oman, with the help of Oman's Scouts and Guides. After completion of this course and receiving his certificate of completion, Al Alawi was sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a 10-day workshop to prepare him as a Y-Peer focal point for Oman.
He then trained five male and six female participants in peer education. The workshop trained trainers to teach fellow youth community members the correct facts on reproductive health, HIV, and other health areas. The sessions at the workshop included team presentations on specific topics, theatrical representations of birth spacing, HIV, and learning how to say 'no'. Discussions followed all exercises with the trainer acting as the facilitator and encouraging debate.
There was a positive response from the participants. Most youth do not feel comfortable talking to their elders on the matter, or receiving the information out of shame or taboo. The Y-Peer network hopes to guide the youth from grassroots level, within the most vulnerable age groups, in all issues related to reproductive health.
Population statistics in Yemen came into existence in 1990s.
Estimates indicated that the Yemeni population was around 4.3 million in 1950, reached 5.2 million in 1960, 6.3 million in the 1980s, and 12.2 million in 1988. Yemen has seen a giant leap in the number of inhabitants in the last quarter of the 20th century and growth reached 3.7%. This increase is attributed to the decrease in the mortality rate and the increase in the fertility rate which reached 7.4% recently.
This demographic explosion would increase the pressure on economic resources especially as food production increases at a small rate.
Statistics indicate that more than 70% of the population lives in the rural area in towns of no more than 500 inhabitants.
The population density overall is of an average of 294 inhabitants per square kilometre. but reaches 4385 inhabitants per sq. kilometre in the capital secretariat.
Small sized assemblies of people are found at low density in remote areas such as in the Eastern Plateau region because of the low soil fertility the high temperature and scarcity of rainfall. Exceptions of this is the valleys of al-Jawf, Hadramout, and Huraib which enjoy seasonal rainfalls.
The countries of the Middle East and North Africa have two-thirds of the world's known petroleum reserves. It has the world's second-fastest growing population, after sub-Saharan Africa. The rapidly growing youth population are complicating the region's capacity to adapt to social change. The people of the Middle East and North Africa have long played a volatile role in history. Three of the world's major religions originated in the region-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Today the population is overwhelmingly Islamic, yet includes Jewish and Christian minorities. Arabic is the predominant language, but Iran, Turkey and Israel, are not Arabic-speaking. The population quadrupled in the last half of the 20th century and now stands at about 430 million. Despite recent fertility declines, the population is projected to surpass 700 million by 2050.
Population growth in Yemen isn't keeping up with requirements. It's important to educate people and include the subject of population in the curricula to increase awareness about the importance of family planning to reduce the number of family members. In Yemen, population growth is 3.4% - having dropping from 3.7%. We need double that to achieve a balance between population growth and economic sources to achieve a better living standard.
The government has a clear population policy that began in 1988. The Yemeni government has a policy with objectives and programs, all of which connect economic and social development with population. Responsibility is shared between the state and the community. Universities play a role in making people aware of the population issue, and requires teaching staff who can communicate with students.
Universities should offer references and sources to help researchers. Such are available at some universities; however, curricula should be available in all Yemeni universities and be part of student requirements. Decreasing the population requires improved health and education services, as well as public awareness about the importance of family planning. Detailed results of the 2004 population census haven't come out yet.
Tunisia has made policies concerning family planning, and succeeded in adjusting economic growth and population. In Iran, one jurisprudential reference helped follow the style of education and awareness through mosques preachers. The situation is different in Yemen. Promoting education and awareness through mosques, schools, universities and television channels is best for Yemen because everyone is responsible for this problem, not just the state.
Ppulation politics does not go against Sharia law because Islam calls us to have family planning.
An official from UNICEF has called for maximum efforts to prevent HIV and AIDS from becoming a general epidemic in Iran.
Iran's experience can serve as a model for other countries, but at the same time, more action is necessary on the prevention of HIV and AIDS. UNICEF supports peer outreach education for adolescents and particular attention to the needs of the young.
Around the world, millions of children are missing parents, siblings, schooling, health care, basic protection and many other fundamentals of childhood because of the toll AIDS is taking on their societies. We must inform young people how to protect themselves from HIV. But another key ally are young people themselves through peer-to-peer education.
In Iran, UNICEF includes seminars and conferences with government officials and civil society representatives.
Population growth in Saudi Arabia grew at 3.32% from 1950 to 1974, and has slowed to 2.75% in 2004.
The dip is mainly due to a decreased influx in the expatriate workforce, but population growth amongst Saudis has declined from 3.87% in 1992 to 2.49% in 2004.
The decline can be explained by: increased urbanisation, improved literacy amongst females, and openness to the modern world through satellites and the internet. This downward trend is likely to continue. Population is expected to grow at 2.07% over the next decade, after which it will decline to around 1.54% during 2015-2025.
The growth in modernisation will push fertility down faster than these figures suggest.
Saudi Arabia covers 2.1 million square miles, 80% of the Arabian Peninsula.
Almost half is uninhabitable; hence there is a high concentration of population in some areas. Out of 119 cities in 2004, 80% of the population lives in 31 cities. More than half the population is concentrated in seven cities.
The Saudi Arabian population currently contains more than six million expatriates. More than half live in the two main cities - Riyadh 28% and Jeddah 23%.
Since 1992, the expatriate population has been stagnant at 26% and this is likely to reduce or remain static. The most pronounced feature of the Saudi national demography is its young population. More than 41% is under 14, another 18% is 15-24. It represents a fast expanding labour force. For Saudi Arabia, it is the big challenge. Unemployment is high 25% by the US Department of State. This is perplexing given the literacy rate amongst Saudis males 85% and females 75%. This is because companies shopped for the cheapest labour around the world. While unemployment amongst locals is the outcome, related job segmentation is perhaps even more harmful. The education system has not been designed to equip the youth with the skills or attitude required by a modern economy. Complacency on the part of many students, a very high proportion of university graduations being in the humanities, and the picture is stark.
Saudi Arabia needs 200,000 new jobs every year. Fortunately there is scope to say that things seem to be moving in the right direction.
With a decrease in the influx of expat workers, the job market will become competitive. The importance of a modern professional education will considerably increase, and modern educational plans better match employers' needs.
The average household size in Saudi Arabia has seen a downward trend from 7.4 people in 1987 to 5.7 in 2004, and indications show a further reduction to around 4 by 2015.
The overall decrease in household size can safely be attributed almost entirely to Saudis.
A study found a trend towards smaller families. It revealed that Saudis realise the need for smaller families, mainly due to economic reasons. Marketers will have to align their products to smaller families.
Currently, there are around four million households compared to around 1.9 million in 1987. This suggests an increase in nuclear families and demands for all kinds of household goods will increase.
Around three million people are 45 or older and this can be expected to double by 2020, becoming a huge market having different needs.
There will be an increase in the economically inactive population; currently at 1.25 million rising up to 3.5 million by 2020. In the long run, a real concern will be old age diseases. All need special and costly healthcare, hence there is an opportunity to educate and sell pension funds, old age benefit plans, healthcare plans, etc.
The Arab region has not made progress in reducing poverty and lags behind other regions in achieving the MDGs.
The eradication of poverty and hunger, the achievement of universal primary education and the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment represent major challenges. The average rate of underweight children below five in the Arab region stands at 12.7%, but in some least developed Arab countries it reaches 37.6%. Youth literacy between 1990 and 2006 increased from 66.6% to 83.4%, but 7.5 million children remain out of school. By April 2007 women held 8.7% of the region's parliamentary seats, a figure among the lowest in the world.
Gains in education since 1990 have not translated into higher female participation in non agricultural labour market. Environment sustainability and sanitation conditions are areas of key concern for the Arab region. In the least developed countries only around one quarter of the rural population has access to sanitation facilities.