By Gifty Athrur
The Executive Director of the National Population Council (NPC) Dr. Leticia Appiah, has asked government to prioritize population issues, to directly develop the country just like other countries, such as Rwanda and Egypt are doing.
Dr. Appiah, insists government needs to shift from treating population issues like family planning as health issue, to an economic one so as to achieve tangible results.
She noted that population management, was everyone’s responsibility, adding though it needs to grow, it has to be at “a slow or realistic pace” especially so because resources are limited.
Using Rwanda as an example, Dr. Appiah said, it would be in the interest of Ghana to treat population issues such as government’s flagship programmes so that much attention will be paid to them by separating them from health to stand on its own.
“That is what we should be looking at because, if you look at Rwanda for instance, they identified that population growth rate was not making them grow economically, so then politically they were there but….. So they shifted to championing family planning as an economic intervention, not as a health.
But you see, when you put family planning as a health intervention, it competes with everything so it is part of health bill, so that malaria will compete but then if it is singled out as an economic intervention, then it can be like we have something like the one district one factory so that we can have a policy like that is not part of health”.
The executive director, who blamed the snail pace of Ghana’s development partly on successive government’s inability to take population issues seriously, made the observation on the sidelines of training programme for selected media personnel on sexual reproductive health and rights, on Tuesday, February 13, in Accra.
According to her, even though Ghana has a population policy which have been reviewed over the years, the major challenge has been effective implementation.
“We have a population policy, but the implementation is the problem. For family planning if you ask me anywhere, I will tell you that, family planning should be refenced.
Family planning should be treated as an economic intervention. Well, it can be treated through health ,but then it should be refenced, the funds should be refenced”.
She said, family planning should be treated like immunization programmes which Ghana is making gains, adding the more children are encouraged to remain in school, and marriage delayed, the better population growth can be controlled.
The Executive Director said, strategizing ways to develop the human resource, was also one critical way to achieve results so that, Ghana does not rely on natural resources alone, but also develop human resource for economic freedom.
According to her, even though population management takes time before gains are made, it was important to give it the needed attention, because when these results are achieved they affect every aspect of development.
A renowned Communications expert and lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon, Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo, said the training was important because it would educate journalists on the subject of population management and report from a very well informed point, having gained knowledge from experts and resources persons, who are well verse on the issues surrounding the topic.
Prof. Gadzekpo said, it was important for journalists to shift from very personal, opinionated, beliefs and judgmental views to a very objective one so that they don’t impose or denial the public different point of views.
She said, journalists must seek information, data and documents covering issues so that they can well inform the public and also challenge their own stands “We must use the data to challenge our own assumption.
In order to tell a good story, we need several documents to tell that one story and we need several sources, to help deepening it and we need the voice of the ordinary people”.
She said, while journalists help to bring the issue of population issues for discussion, they must not fail to tell why it is important to discussion it because “It affects the quality of our education, it affects the quality of health, it affects our well-being, it affects our happiness and we are story tellers so let’s find interesting and compelling ways to tell our stories”.
A lecturer at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Prof. Awusabo-Asare, said the training should afford journalists the opportunity to report from a well informed position on population and reproductive health.
He argued that it was critical that children are educated on reproductive health, because according to him, even though the intention to delay marriage and child birth was the right way, in between the time that they are expected to delay these, they find a way to have sex and so the more they are educated, the better they are educated take preventive measures.
Speaking on values, clarification and attitudinal transformation in relation to sexual reproductive health, a representative from the Marie Stopes International Ghana, Godfred Bonnah Nkansah, said the biggest challenge of today’s adolescent, is reproductive health, because through no fault of theirs, they lack the necessary information to take decisions.
While encouraging Ghana to go the way of Rwanda and Egypt, who have embraced the issue of population and are working effectively towards it, Mr Nkandah, said Africa has the highest prevalence of deaths due to unsafe abortion. The continent has only 28 per cent of it married women using contraceptives.