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Population policies fall short of stemming growth but Abel confident of changing attitudes

“I’ve had my own clashes with the Catholic Church. But with a more liberal Pope, I think the church is slowly changing its views,” Charles Abel says.

abel
Charles Abel – Deputy Prime Minister 

Discussions at the at the National Planning Consultative Summit in Lae have  revealed how Papua New Guinea’s national population policies  have  fallen short of stemming population growth.

 Some of the problems highlighted were the lack of access, understanding and the conflicting views on contraception between government and churches.

While much of the talk revolved about economic growth,  there was a stark reminder that  population growth rate at  more than 3 percent per annum needed to be controlled.

On average,  300,000 children are born every year.  If  Papua New Guinea continues to have an economy that doesn’t surpass  that growth,   basic services will become seriously burdened.

But the signs are already evident.  Urban clinics  continue to be  overburdened with the influx of patients.  Health workers admit, urban populations have risen over 30 years.

In the last term of government,  Deputy Prime Minister,  Charles Abel, launched a population control strategy.  While he   admits there are weaknesses, he maintains there is more awareness now that before.

“The policy that I launched should be matched up with the implementation document which is the document two of the population policy.

“The implementation also has to happen in the district and war level as well.”

In many rural areas, contraception and  family planning  are of a lesser priority  that curative health.

“Contraception is supposed to be free  for those who want it,” says Geoffrey Hayes, a population and development specialist at the UNFPA.  “But health workers still charged people who sought help because they didn’t know about the government policy.”

With roughly  40 percent of health services operated by the Catholic Church,  government policy has in many instances come into conflict with the church’s views on contraception.

Government policies on population control and the use of contraception  is at times a touchy subject.

Even politicians realize, that the conflict could,  potentially,  extend to the polling booths if the more than 2 million  Papua New Guinean Catholics  disagree with the government.

In February, the Catholic Bishop of Alotau, Ronaldo Santos, told the ABC’s Pacific Beat Program”They should not use artificial means in order to prevent the natural process from taking place.”

“I’ve had my own clashes with the Catholic Church. But with a more liberal Pope, I think the church is slowly changing its views,” Charles Abel says.

1 comment on “Population policies fall short of stemming growth but Abel confident of changing attitudes

  1. The view that population growth is the main problem in developing countries has been discredited for decades or longer. A young population can be a tremendous asset, when adequately educated. It is called the demographic dividend. That being said, of course contraception should be made available broadly so that women can make their own choices, and manage their reproductive health. You are not going to change the Catholic church quickly, so they should be ignored in this matter. In Italy, the land hosting the Vatican, population growth has been negative for decades. (full disclosure: I am a catholic and my permanent residence is in Italy).

    Like

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