Children’s education and health hampered by population growth (OCT)

26 October 2000

Media Releases 2000

Continued population growth in many countries is hampering efforts to provide universal primary school education, according to Australians for an Ecologically Sustainable Population (AESP).

National President of AESP, Dr Harry Cohen, says many countries such as Papua New Guinea are unlikely to meet the UN goal of universal primary school education because of the explosion in the number of children.

Speaking prior to Universal Children’s Day (October 27), Dr Cohen said gains in global enrollments had barely kept pace with population growth. “Well over 100 million children do not attend school,” he said.

“According to UNICEF, even where children are enrolled, the quality of education is questionable, with up to 112 children in Grade 1 classes in more than a dozen countries. And completion rates of Grade 4 are only 60 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, both regions of very high population growth,” said Dr Cohen.

“Progress has been very slow in increasing equality for girls. Not only is this a tragedy for girls, but education of a mother is a critical factor in bringing birth rates down,” he said.

AESP also says that children are dying from acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia as air quality declines in urban areas. These diseases are major killers of children under five.

Half the world’s population now lives in cities, many in crowded shantytowns. According to Dr Cohen, overcrowding is a principal factor in the spread of all major infectious diseases including tuberculosis, dengue fever and malaria.

“To make matters worse, disease carriers such as mosquitoes and rats thrive in crowded urban environments,” says Dr Cohen.

Diarrheal diseases caused by inadequate sanitation and contaminated water also remain a major killer of children, causing 25 per cent of all deaths of under-fives in Asia.

“Half the world’s population – three billion – have inadequate sanitation and 1.2 billion are without safe drinking water,” says Dr Cohen. “Yet the International Water Management Institute predicts that a billion people will be living in countries facing absolute water scarcity by 2025.”

“Water is critical to health. Countries facing absolute water scarcity will find it very difficult to direct water away from agriculture for domestic purposes, but unless they do, children will continue to die needlessly,” Dr Cohen concluded.

Further information: Dr Harry Cohen, Ph(mobile): 0407 426 987


Media Releases 2000
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