World Population Day 2024: To leave no one behind, count everyone


Dr N Sharat Singh
World Population Day (WPD), observed annually on July 11th, was established by the United Nations in 1989 to raise awareness about global population issues, inspired by "Five Billion Day" in 1987. Initiated by Dr KC Zachariah, a Senior Demographer at the World Bank, WPD addresses critical issues like environmental impact, development, family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health, and human rights. Each year focuses on a specific theme to highlight diverse aspects of population dynamics. Globally recognized, WPD includes events organized by Governments, NGOs, and the private sector to promote sustainable population policies. Milestones of billionth babies include: around 1804 for the 1 billionth; July 1927 for the 2 billionth; October 1960 for the 3 billionth; July 1974 for the 4 billionth; Matej Gašpar in July 1987 in Zagreb, Croatia for the 5 billionth; Adnan Mevic in October 1999 in Sarajevo, Bosnia for the 6 billionth; Danica May Camacho in October 2011 in Manila, Philippines for the 7 billionth; and Vinice Mabansag in November 2022 at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila for the 8 billionth.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) annually decide the theme for WPD. The themes over the years reflect a growing awareness of interconnected global issues. Initially focused on family planning, the themes have evolved to encompass a broader range of concerns such as adolescent health, reproductive rights, and the impact of population dynamics on development and the environment. Themes like "A Safe and Healthy Life" (1992), "Population and Environment" (1995), and "Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services" (2012) emphasise the significance of health and sustainability. Recent themes, such as "Rights and Choices are the Answer" (2021) and "Unleashing the Power of Gender Equality" (2023), emphasize the crucial role of gender equality and reproductive rights in addressing population challenges. Each theme highlights the ongoing commitment to improving the well-being of people worldwide, adapting to emerging issues and reflecting the changing landscape of global population dynamics.
This year theme is “To Leave No One Behind, Count Everyone”. The United Nations emphasizes that despite advancements in population data collection improving health care and rights, marginalized communities are still under- represented. This WPD Day calls for inclusive data systems to ensure all groups are counted, as capturing humanity's full diversity is crucial for collective progress. This theme stresses the persistent undercount of marginalized communities in population data, despite technological advancements. Vulnerable groups such as refugees, the homeless, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities often remain inadequately represented, perpetuating inequalities and hindering inclusive development. A lack of comprehensive and disaggregated data, out-dated or non-existent data collection systems and political and socio-cultural barriers impede accurate data collection, especially in developing countries. This lack of representation leads to inefficient resource allocation and gaps in essential services like healthcare and education, perpetuating cycles of poverty and exclusion. Addressing these challenges requires modern data collection technologies, inclusive methodologies, and fostering trust with marginalized populations. Accurate and inclusive data collection is crucial for equitable development and achieving global goals, ultimately contributing to a more just and inclusive world.
Some developing Nations also marked this year's WPD, focusing on "Empowering Future Generations: Sustainable Development and Population Trends". This emphasises the urgent need to address population trends effectively to ensure a sustainable future for all. As the global population continues to rise, surpassing 8 billion in 2023, it becomes imperative to focus on sustainable development to meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. This challenge is particularly significant in developing countries, where rapid population growth can strain natural resources, healthcare, and education systems. However, if adequately empowered, a youthful population can drive economic growth and innovation. The United Nations' Sustainable Develop- ment Goals (SDGs) provide a comprehensive framework to tackle these challenges. Goals such as No Poverty (SDG 1), Quality Education (SDG 4), and Gender Equality (SDG 5) are directly influenced by population trends. For instance, achieving universal education can lead to reduced fertility rates and slower population growth, contributing to sustainable development. Investing in health, education, and gender equality creates an ethical cycle that stabilizes population growth and fosters sustainable develop- ment. Empowering women and girls is particularly crucial, as access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities for women leads to lower fertility rates, improved child health, and enhanced economic productivity. For example, in Bangladesh, targeted investments in women’s education and healthcare have resulted in significant improvements in maternal health and child mortality rates, with maternal mortality dropping from 574 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 173 in 2017 and the under-5 mortality rate falling from 144 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 32 in 2019. Effective policies and governance are fundamental to balancing population dynamics with sustainable development. Governments must implement policies promoting sustainable agricultural practices, protecting natural resources, and ensuring equitable access to social services. International cooperation is vital, as population and environmental issues transcend National boundaries. Agreements such as the Paris Agreement on climate change highlight the importance of global collaboration in addressing these challenges. Moreover, technology plays a crucial role in managing population growth and promoting sustainability, with innovations in healthcare, education, and renewable energy essential for reducing the environmental impact of population growth. By committing to policies and practices that ensure a balanced and sustainable future, we can create a world where all individuals have the opportunity to thrive. World Population Day 2024 calls on us to empower future generations, making sustainable development not just a goal but a necessity for the well-being of our planet and all its inhabitants.
Navigating the World's Largest Population
India became the world's most populous country in 2023, surpassing China with approximately 1.428 billion people, according to United Nations data. This demographic shift is driven by a high birth rate and improved healthcare, marking a crucial moment for India's socio-economic outlook. The nation's large youth population both fuels growth and poses challenges. While straining resources and infrastructure, such as public services and employment opportunities, the demographic dividend also presents opportunities for economic advancement and innovation.
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