Rwanda’s population growth rate is among the highest in Africa currently at 2.9 percent. Based on the NISR National Population Projections (July 2009) Rwanda’s population in 2012 is estimated at 11.033.141.

The theme for this year’s World Population Day celebrations was “Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services.” Reproductive health problems continue to be among the leading causes of ill health and death for women of childbearing age worldwide.

Lack of access to reproductive health services such as family planning services is also the leading cause of families producing large numbers of children, most of whom they are unable to take care of.

Based on a new study that was released ahead of the London Conference on Family Planning, the use of contraceptives can save the lives of more than 250,000 women in the developing world annually. Access to reproductive health services leads to improved maternal and child health services, good quality of life and planned pregnancies.

It’s in this regard that Rwanda joined the rest of the world, on July 11, 2012, to mark the World Population Day (WPD). Ms. Victoria Akyeampong, the UNFPA Country Resident Representative, in a statement to mark WPD, said that some 222 million women who would like to avoid or delay pregnancy lack access to effective family planning. Nearly 800 women die every day in the process  of giving life. About 1.8 billion young people are entering their reproductive years, often without the knowledge, skills and services they need to protect themselves.

“Investing in reproductive health is crucial. Reproductive health is at the very heart of development and crucial to delivering the UNFPA vision, a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” Ms. Akyeampong noted. She also said that Maternal and newborn deaths hurt families, slow economic growth and lead to global productivity losses of about $15 billion each year.  On the other hand, investing in improved health for women and babies has far-reaching benefits for nations.

Ms. Akyeampong cited the example of the fact that one third and one half of Asia’s economic growth from 1965 to 1990 has been attributed to improvements in reproductive health, reductions in infant/child deaths and fertility rates.  Existing challenges such as myths, rumors and  misconceptions about Family Planning methods and their side effects are some of the issues she pointed out as barriers to family planning.

“There are also gaps in sexual and reproductive health education in schools which presents an immense potential since children can learn about such issues at an early age,” Ms. Akyeampong said.

“There is still inadequate information and counseling on family planning,” Ms. Akyeampong stated while pointing out insufficient decisionmaking power among women about the use of Family Planning and limited support and involvement of their male partners as key barriers.

During the World Population Day Celebrations at Amahoro Stadium, Mr. John Rwangombwa, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, highlighted the significance of prenatal and postnatal care, contraceptive use, and family planning.

He emphasized the significance of this year’s theme saying that if Rwanda is to have a sustainable and productive society in the future, population concerns are paramount.

“World Population Day is an opportunity for Rwandans to reflect on the past and assess the way forward. Opinion leaders at different levels have to contribute to the education required to the community to understand these concepts,” Mr. Rwangombwa said.

According to the Finance Minister, Rwanda’s population under the poverty line reduced from 57 percent in 2005 down to 45 percent in 2011. However, he emphasized the fact that less than 20 percent of the population needs to be under the poverty line by 2020, if Rwanda is to transform into a middle-income country.

Mr. Rwangombwa urged Rwandans to stay focused on achieving the Vision 2020 goals in order to have a GDP of US$1,200 as opposed to the current US$900.  According to the State of the World Population Report (SWOP 2011), major problems related to women’s reproductive health include unwanted pregnancies, maternal deaths, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections and gender-based violence and disabilities, among others.

Researchers estimate that without the use of contraceptives, the rate of maternal death would have been 1.8 times greater. The report established that prematurity and low birth weight doubled when conception occurred within six months of a previous birth, and that children born within two years of an elder sibling were 60 per cent more likely to die in infancy than those born two years afterward. “Increasing contraceptive use in developing countries has cut the number of maternal deaths by 40 percent over the past 20 years,” the study stated.

According to the study, the number of unwanted pregnancies and unmet contraceptive need are still high in many developing countries and that the use of contraception is “a substantial and effective primary prevention strategy to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries.”

Meeting the unmet needs for modern family planning and maternal and newborn health care will reduce maternal deaths by more than two thirds – from 358,000 to 105,000. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, maternal deaths will drop by 69 per cent and newborn deaths will fall by 57 per cent (Guttmacher Institute, “Facts on Investing in Family Planning and Maternal and Newborn Health,” November 2010).

The participants were urged to cooperate with the relevant authorities to ensure accurate and reliable outcomes of the forthcoming National Population and Housing Census which is due on August 16 to 30, 2012.


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