Rapid population growth threatens Dhamar
Abdulkareem Al-Nahari (author), Abdulkareem Al-Nahari (photographer)
The study was conducted by a team from the Gaeneral Secretariat of the National Population Council in collaboration with the Health and Population Council and the Reproductive Health Program.
Funded by the Dutch government, the study, titled “Population, Development and Future Challenges in Dhamar,” stated 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.
It is anticipated that by 2034, Dhamar governorate’s population will increase to around four million people if the current fertility rate doesn’t shift, translating to an increase of more than two million people when compared to numbers from the 2004 census.
Growing need for schools
The boom in newborns will also put a huge strain on primary education in the governorate. With an increase of 500,000 students, school enrollment jumped to around one million between 2004 and 2009, according to the study.
These extra students obviously mean that more teachers will be required; approximately 23,765 teachers for primary education will be needed if it is assumed that there will be one teacher for every 26 students.
It is expected that the number of teachers required for secondary schools in Dhamar would amount to 4,184 – an increase of 2,187 – while secondary education costs would rise to over YR 10 billion ($44 million).
The study pointed out that extra classrooms would be required, at a cost of $738 million, including $77 million to establish secondary school classrooms.
“Every primary school classroom will cost about $27,500, while the cost of the secondary school will be some $32, 500,” read the study.
The health sector would also require significant economic resources in 2034. It would be extremely difficult to improve the current service level with continued population growth at the current fertility rate. Costs for the health sector are projected to be over $43 million, an increase of $25 million compared with 2009.
The number of doctors needed to cover these requirements will rise to 630.
Arable land per capita is 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.
At present, Dhamar requires 188 million cubic meters of water per year, but accounting for population growth, an additional 266 million cubic meters will be required by 2034 – a total of 454 million cubic meters of water a year.
The study was designed to demonstrate the impacts of population growth in order that officials in the planning sector may have a clearer vision in working to reduce Yemen’s fertility rate, this according to Abdul-Salam Al-Ahsab, director of the Public Health and Population Center in Dhamar.
Al-Ahsab affirmed that a national population policy would be achieved only if all government institutions and civil society organizations could cooperate with each other.
However, a source at the planning office in Dhamar told the Yemen Times that he has no details of this study.
He added that until now, it is the responsibility of Yemen’s central government to design plans for each governorate, as local council authorities are still limited.
Mujahid Al-Khatari, director of Dhamar’s Early Healthcare Office, said that Dhamar would not be able to meet the increasing requirements of its growing population.
“This obliges more efforts to reduce the high fertility rate, as it is the reason for population growth, which, in turn, leads to low incomes and more poverty, unemployment and deteriorated living standards,” he said.
“More awareness of reproductive health and family planning are needed,” Al-Khatari concluded.
Abdullah Salim, director of the Follow-up and Evaluation Office in Dhamar, said that 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.
Director of Reproductive Health Office in Dhamar Amira Arraf said that a reduced population growth rate would be achieved only if politicians would commit to population issues and reproductive health problems.
“This can be done by increasing budgets for reproductive health services, child health and family planning,” she said
“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,” Arraf said.
“Decisions to set the marriage age at 18 and the banning of female genital mutilation have to be supported,” she added.
Abdulkareem Khaled Ali, a development activist in Dhamar, stressed the importance of female education to reduce incidences of early marriage as educated women get married at older ages when compared with those lacking an education.
“Also, educated women make their own decisions in family planning,” said Ali. “More efforts are needed to raise female enrollment numbers and have effective literacy eradication programs.”
“Unfortunately, decision makers do not take such studies seriously and plan randomly and with no consideration of reality and statistics,” the local council member added.
He demanded that members of local councils receive training on how to make decisions and plan according to statistics and studies.
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 rates could be reduced to 46 million in 2035 if proper health and population measures are taken.