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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Can Yemen be Saved?

Yemen is a country of 25 million people occupying the southwestern portion of the Arabian peninsula. Geographically, it is the southernmost country in what we typically call the middle east. While its demographics are not as disastrous as those of Niger, they are not good. With a current growth rate of 2.7 percent, the country is projected to double in size by the middle of this century. It is already the poorest country in the middle east--what will it be like with twice as many people, most of them very young? Well, it seems that the new government of Yemen has been asking itself that very same question. According to the 2013 round of United Nations questionnaires on population policies, Yemen wants to lower its rate of growth specifically by lowering its fertility rate. My thanks to Abu Daoud for pointing me to an article in the Yemen Times that discusses the work of the new National Population Council. 
Last week the National Population Council in Sana’a in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund held a meeting entitled, “Population Programs …the Reality and Future Challenges,” in order to highlight current growth trends in Yemen and ways to cope with it. 
According to the National Population Council’s report, Yemen is now paying more attention to addressing population-related issues than it did in the 1990s. In 1991, the government adopted a national population strategy to address its expanding population. The introduction of family planning programs, as part of the strategy, has made a small dent in the population growth rate.
However, many of the efforts that were addressing population growth were suspended when the 2011 anti-government uprising broke out. The tumultuous events of the year-long protests largely put a halt to many of these programs as both international and national funding for them shrank.
This is troublesome for many. Hesham Sharf, the minister of higher education and scientific research, expressed concern about the population situation in Yemen.

“In the coming 10 years, the government will not be able to meet the population’s needs for education, health and services unless a practical strategy is adopted,” he said.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Ansi, the minister of public health and population, echoed Sharf’s sentiments, saying population growth needs to be a government priority.
For the time being, at least, the idea of limiting population growth is just an idea, not a reality. This is very unfortunate, because history suggests that the kind of growth that Yemen is experiencing will be a continuous source of potential political instability. It seems doubtful that the government really wants that outcome.

1 comment:

  1. Yemen is symptomatic of what will become a critical issue - the "people problem". The Government is proposing a logical solution ... lower the birth rates. But this may not sit very well with many citizens who believe strongly in a more fundamentalist view of Islam. It seems likely that hardline Islamists will label the Government attempts at a solution as some form of "deception" and instead steer the people in a different direction. The bottom line here is that as population levels rise and there is greater competition for resources .... then human stress levels rise. This tends to trigger a variety of "negative thought patterns" which do not promote educated and cooperative solutions to problems. We could very well see this play out in Yeman, and it is not a good sign if it does. Pete, Redondo Beach