This was originally posted on The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog
We all knew the world’s population was growing exponentially. But today we have learned that previous predictions may have underestimated that growth: the global population could grow to nearly 11 billion by 2100. This impressive growth, combined with disturbing food and water shortages, diminished resources, and rapid climate change has sustained high rates of hunger and undernutrition, particularly in the developing world. With World Population Day this week and 868 million people already living in hunger, we must realize the size and health of the future global population will largely depend on the reproductive choices we make today.
Simply put, women who have access to comprehensive, voluntary reproductive health services and information are more likely to choose to have smaller families. Research has proven that access to family planning can reduce fertility rates in developing countries. UNFPA estimates that improved access to family planning has halved the number of births per woman in the last 50 years. Yet, in many developing countries where population growth is rapid, impoverished women – those most vulnerable to food insecurity, climate change, and declining resources – still have to rely on chance to determine the size of their families.
Choosing when and how many children a woman wants to have can significantly reduce the economic burden on her family, while increasing the chance her family will be food secure. Voluntary family planning produces smaller families not only by reducing unplanned pregnancies, but by enabling women to space births according to their preference and financial resources. The more women can make informed reproductive health choices, the more likely it is they will choose to have smaller families – decreasing demand for resources and increasing food security.
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