ETHIOPIA: Rapid population growth undermining development - US
ADDIS ABABA, 21 June 2005 (IRIN) - Rapid population growth in Ethiopia is undermining the country's development, the United States cautioned on Tuesday.
The warning came as the US pledged medical equipment worth US $750,000 to 100 rural health centres in five regions across the country to help improve family planning and reproductive health.
"The equipment donated to the Ministry of Health helps in meeting the reproductive health needs of Ethiopia," the US embassy in the capital, Addis ababa, said in a statement.
According to its National Office of Population, Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of population growth in the world, estimated at 2.7 percent per annum in 2003 with a total fertility rate of 5.9 children per woman.
"The rapid population growth in Ethiopia is a serious challenge to the development efforts of the nation," the US statement said.
Government authorities estimate that its population of 74 million will double in fewer than 25 years. Because of poor reproductive health, a mother in Ethiopia is 37 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life than a mother in Sweden.
The country also suffers from one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with 850 women out of 100,000 dying during childbirth.
The US will provide support to health centres in the northern regions of Tigray and Amhara, as well as the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' region and Oromiya in the south and Benishangul-Gumuz in the west.
Experts also warned that a "root cause" of the country's annual food crises is runaway population growth.
Sahlu Haile, head of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in Ethiopia, told journalists at the weekend that each year the country has two million new mouths to feed.
He said the agricultural sector, the mainstay of the economy, was unable to meet the growing population demands, exacerbating erosion, deforestation and the loss of soil nutrients.
The current rate of deforestation of over 75,000 hectares per year threatened to wipe out all forests in less than 20 years, he added.
Ethiopia - currently reeling from a food crisis affecting eight million people - has the third largest population in Africa. According to the UN's Population Fund, only eight percent of its sexually active population use family-planning methods.