In this interview, with ADEZE OJUKWU, the Executive Director of National Population Council and a member of the National COVID-19 Taskforce in Ghana, Dr. Leticia Appiah, called for urgency, in addressing the negative trend, in order to avert its far-reaching socio-economic consequences on the continent and its future.
TNE: Can you briefly speak about your academic and professional background?
I completed Medical School from Donetsk Medical Institute in Ukraine in 1993.
I obtained a Master‘s and PhD in Public Health from University of Ghana in 2003 and 2018 respectively. In 2011, I became a fellow of Hubert H. Humphrey Programme under the Fulbright Scholarship. During this period I obtained further training and experience, in HIV policy and prevention at Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University in Atlanta. I am the Executive Director of National Population Council, the highest statutory body set up by the constitution, which advises Government on population.
I am a member of Ghana AIDS Commission Board, National Steering Committee of the 2020 Ghana Population and Housing Census, Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and Technical Committee National COVID-19 Taskforce in Ghana.
TNE: What does an effective population management mean for a nation?
Effective population management starts with reduction of high-risk pregnancies, which ultimately improves the lives and livelihoods of citizens. This makes it easier and cheaper to implement other policies such as education, housing, sanitation, employment and security.
TNE: What is the role of government in population management?
Governments have the prime responsibility for the provision of policies and programmes aimed at harnessing the human capital. Consequently, this will improve the quality of life of its citizens and make the nation a prosperous one.
Population is every nation’s most valuable resource, but for it to be fit for the purpose, it needs to be transformed into capital through systematic and timely investments in adequate nutrition, health and education.
Just like crude oil, a natural resource needs to be refined for value addition before it can be consumed.
At the very core of our conversation on sustainable development therefore is how many people we have and can adequately plan for at any point in time without destroying the ecosystem that sustains lives.
TNE: How does high population growth affect unemployment, poverty and public health?
Employment is a condition for prosperity, community stability and national development.
Rapid population growth makes it more challenging for governments and private sector to create jobs. The correlation between fertility levels and future employment opportunities for young people should be clear. With high fertility rates, high population growth rate could outstrip the nation’s ability and capacity to provide necessities for good health cognizant of the finite nature of resources, such as land and water. Again, governments may have difficulties in providing adequate and quality education as well as jobs for the huge number of people, to meet the requirements of 21st century. This could chronically lead to low savings, unemployment, underemployment and poverty, which threaten sustainable development.
TNE: What is the impact of the region’s high population growth rate on the response to COVID-19?
Generally, high population growth in Africa affected its response to coronavirus in several ways, especially with the lockdowns in several countries.
Undoubtedly, population structure is a major factor for underdevelopment and economic stagnation. Africa has a youthful population and ensuring their reproductive health needs are met is imperative to contain and slow the high population growth rate during the pandemic and beyond. However, during the lockdown, access to family planning and reproductive health services was restricted, especially for the poor.
This obviously could have led to unplanned and accidental pregnancies, thus adding to family and national responsibilities. Also, with children out of school, many girls from poor families may end as child brides, contributing to high population growth, widening inequality and ravaging poverty gaps.
TNE: What is the significance of COVID-19 to Africa?
The pandemic underscores the need to place equal premium on population dynamics, public health and economics, as important variables in the simultaneous equation of sustainable development for maximum impact.
COVID-19 offers an opportunity to reflect on the linkages between population and socio-economic policies that healthily balance the supply of labor and the job opportunities to meet our development targets. This will ultimately, create the Africa we want.
The pandemic offers Africans the opportunity to rethink resilience, amidst physical and social distancing. With closed borders and protective equipment in short supply, self-reliance and economic growth should be central to our agenda.
TNE: Can you highlight strategies to improve acceptance of family planning in Africa?
In resource constraint settings, the right health policy, such as family planning contributes to improving macro-economic policies by keeping people healthy and productive, in all spheres of life, from education to skill acquisition and employment. To improve acceptance of family planning two main approaches are critical. Firstly, advocacy and awareness creation, are needed to build coalitions and support among key actors and decision makers at all levels to overcome barriers to supporting a family planning campaign, as a developmental programme. Secondly, implementation of a national communications campaign among all sectors at the national, district, and community levels on the critical role of family planning in poverty reduction.
TNE: How can governments and regional bodies work with stakeholders, including traditional and religious leaders to manage population?
All stakeholders including religious organizations should work together to improve quality life of citizens. Evidence shows that investment in family planning improves quality of life. In reference to religious leaders, the fact that religion and spirituality entreat us to harness our God-given talents for his kingdom’s purpose and our common good forms the basis for planning. To achieve this, reducing high population growth rate by reducing child marriage, teen pregnancies and other high-risk pregnancies makes it easier for families and governments to adequately invest in skill development and other productive ventures. All these will empower citizens to become financially independent.
Majority of Africans have a religious affiliation, so engaging religious leaders, as stewards of population management, is critical, in addressing Africa’s population dynamics. The strategy is to develop problem points, based on the impact of unmanaged populations, in order to identify solutions at the community level. The potential outcomes will include sensitizing majority of the country to population issues, through trusted sources, while countering the perception that religious authorities will not support population efforts.
TNE: Africa has enough expertise on development. Why are African governments not implementing solutions already working in China or India?
The reasons are many. However solutions, which have worked for other countries, may not necessarily work exactly the same way. Each country is unique and dynamic.
It cannot be one size fitting all. The socio-economic and cultural nuances of Africa must be considered in implementation of programmes, which may have worked in other regions. Africans must come to the realization that high population growth rate is a challenge and a sustainer of poverty. We need to confront head-on and find appropriate ways to communicate the need to reduce the growth rate to enable quality human capital accumulation for sustainable development, especially in the 21st century. Generally, human capital enables nations and families to overcome poverty.
TNE: How will the region integrate strategic planning in human capital development policies?
Accumulation of human capital has a right order and optimal timing just like prevention of COVID- 19 has its own protocols, which do not take into consideration our wishes, dreams, habits and cultures. Human capital accumulation is not ad hoc programme. It involves a strategic plan with appropriate investments along with the critical role of population dynamics in development frameworks.
Environmental, social and economic agenda can no longer be pursued, separately but must be merged into a single sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth policy which will invariably lead to improved productivity and reduction of inequality in society.
TNE: Can you mention a few practical strategies on diversifying the African economy.
Labour and education policies should keep up with the pace of innovation with talent adaptability. They are critical in helping nations cope with disruptions, such as COVID-19.
A holistic approach will better balance short term considerations against factors, because their impact is felt beyond short term cycles. COVID-19 has indeed ignited our creative and innovative skills to start production of needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ventilators, due to the universal demand for them. We cannot continue to depend on other nations for things we can easily produce. This is pointing us to the need to focus more on technical education and industrialization of our countries and less reliance on imported finished products.
By ADEZE OJUKWU – June 20, 2020
The Executive Director of National Population Council, Dr. Leticia Appiah has noted that COVID-19 is highlighting the imbalance in Sexual Reproductive Healthcare delivery.
Speaking at the launch of World Population Day on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, she noted that COVID-19 has exposed the weak health systems which cripple women’s development.
“COVID-19 has indeed exposed the lack of equity and fairness in our societies and widening the inequality gap… Healthy and empowered women can bring about the change needed to create a sustainable future for all.”
Speaking on the theme “Putting the brake on COVID-19: how to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now”, she explained that COVID-19 is threatening to derail measures to attain “Zero Maternal Deaths, Zero Unmet Need for Family Planning and Zero Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Harmful Practices targets, which are necessary for meeting our SDG goals and in our Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda.”
But Dr. Leticia Appiah further assured the general public that the NPC and its partners are working hard to save the gains made in ensuring that the Sexual Reproductive Health Rights stay on the local agenda.
“As a nation, the NPC and its partners are committed to safeguarding the hard-fought gains and ensuring that Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and services stay on the local agenda to enlist societal and political wills in maintaining the momentum towards achieving the SDGs by 2030 and develop Ghana beyond Aid.”
REMARKS BY DR. LETICIA ADELAIDE APPIAH ON THE
PRESS BRIEFING ON THE 2020 WORLD
POPULATION DAY CELEBRATION
Country Representative, UNFPA
Country Director, Marie Stopes international
And all other distinguished partners present
Ladies and Gentlemen
The National Population Council warmly welcomes you all to the pre-launch of the 2020 World Population Day Celebration. Each year, the celebration offers National Population Council (NPC) and its partners the opportunity to raise awareness on emerging population issues confronting humanity. It is a time to assess how well society honors its citizens by meeting their needs and well- being across everyone’s life course and across generations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the theme for this year’s celebration is “Putting the brake on COVID-19: how to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now”.
Globally, the pandemic is threatening to derail many efforts including efforts to achieve Zero Maternal Deaths, Zero Unmet need for Family Planning and Zero Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Harmful Practices targets, which are necessary in meeting our SDG goals and in our Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda.
As a nation, the NPC and its partners are committed to safeguarding the hard-fought gains and ensuring that Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and services stay on the local agenda to enlist societal and political wills in maintaining the momentum towards achieving the SDGs by 2030 and develop Ghana beyond Aid.
According to the 2017 Ghana Maternal Health Survey, the Maternal Mortality Ratio is estimated at 310 deaths per 100,000 live births (i.e. 12 per cent of deaths among women in Ghana is due to maternal causes). In relation to unmet need for family planning, almost one out of three married women who want to space or limit the number of children they want to have is not using any family planning method leading to many unintended and mistimed pregnancies.
More so, more than 50 percent of the population are females and 16.1 percent are young females aged 10-24. Some of these women and girls have been abused and their human rights violated in several ways. Over 40 percent of women who are married or living together with their partners have had any form of social violence or physical violence; 30.1 per cent with various forms of sexual violence. It must be noted that these figures were higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas. On the average, women who marry before age 18 is 19 percent higher in the Northern and Upper East regions and lowest in Greater Accra region.
In this wave of COVID-19 pandemic, population issues are also influencing the outcome of our livelihoods and thus should no longer be ignored.COVID-19 has indeed exposed the lack of equity and fairness in our societies and widening the inequality gap. The pandemic has presented the world a chance to address the imbalance to build strong and resilient health system and equitable development of all including women and girls. Healthy and empowered women can bring about the change needed to create a sustainable future for all.
Ladies and gentlemen, how do we as a nation safeguard the health and rights of our women and girls in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030 without engaging the media?
We need the help of the MEDIA to create and maintain awareness on sexual and reproductive health needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls during the pandemic and beyond. Also, advocate for the continuity of SRHR and Sexual and Gender Based Violence services in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic. We need to focus on the harm such practices cause and the benefits we seek to realize from abandoning them. We cannot achieve these lofty goals alone since public health needs all hands-on deck. Therefore, I urge all stakeholders to come together to safeguard the health rights of women and girls now.
by Ernest Arhinful – July 8, 2020
The National Population Council (NPC), has called for media support to create and maintain awareness on sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Dr Leticia Adelaide Appiah, the Chief Executive of NPC, said it was important for the country to remain committed to safeguarding hard-fought gains in promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) of women and girls and keep the issues on the local agenda during the pandemic.
Dr Appiah who made the call at an event to pre-launch the 2020 World Population Day celebrations in Accra with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that was the only way to maintain the momentum towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and ensuring Ghana beyond aid.
World Population Day is observed every July 11 to raise awareness on population issues.
This year’s celebration is on the theme; “Putting the Brakes on COVID-19 to raise awareness of global population issues: How to Safeguard the Health and Rights of Women and Girls Now”.
The celebration will raise awareness on the three transformative goals of; zero maternal deaths, zero unmet needs for family planning as well as zero sexual and Gender Based Violence and harmful practices.
Dr Appiah noted that almost one out of three married women who wanted to space or limit the number of children to have was not using any family planning method leading to many unintended and mistimed pregnancies and asked the media to help preach the advantages of family planning.
She said in the wake of the pandemic, population issues were also influencing outcome of livelihoods and must no longer be ignored.
Dr Appiah recounted challenges COVID-19 had exposed women and girls to and called for the need to advocate the continuity of SRHR and Sexual and Gender Based Violence services.
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director General of the Ghana Health Service, said the Service by way of controlling population had mainstreamed family planning services and also extended its scope by using Community Health nurses to reach the vulnerable.
He said family planning was placed on the National Health Insurance on a pilot to offer services for free in some areas.
Dr Agnes Ntibanyurwa, the UNFPA Deputy Country Director, called on government to put in place measures to ensure the achievement of the formative goals target, which were necessary in meeting the SDG goals.
Ms Patricia Antwi-Boasiako, the Deputy Director Operations and Advocacy Marie Stopes Ghana, pledged to support the NPC and called for the need to prioritise and invest in the health of women and girls.
She underscored the need to increase local funding, specifically budgetary allocation to health, with clear lines of a good percentage to adolescent reproductive health issues.
“Our ability to achieve the SDGs in 10 years, to safeguard the future of our girls and ensure our development gains are indeed progressive and sustainable depends largely on the investments we make today as a country,” she stated.
By Ghana News Agency
Jul 8, 2020
The National Population Council (NPC) has called for media partnership in intensifying advocacy and education on Adolescent, Sexual, and Reproductive Health (ASRH) in the country.
According to the NPC, Sexual and Reproductive Health issues had direct links to all the 17 goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and when addressed properly, could lead to the achievement of the quality life for all Ghanaians by the year 2030.
Dr. Leticia Appiah, the Executive Director of NPC, in soliciting the support of the media at an Editor’s forum stressed that despite efforts to address the ASRH, the impact have not been as expected.
According to her lack of sustainable financing, low education, lack of timely information, poor access to available services such as family planning, stigmatisation and the negative attitudes of service providers, especially towards ASRH rights and needs have contributed to this.
The forum, which was jointly organised by the NPC and Marie Stopes International, Ghana, was to create a platform for discussions with the media on their role in addressing ASRH issues and the attainment of the SDGs.
She noted that teenage pregnancy was still unacceptably high among girls at the basic school level leading to increased dropout rates, especially in rural Ghana.
The media had influential powers for enhancing education, effecting cultural change of negative practices, and pushing for political support and policy implementation, for adequate resources to address ASRH issues, she said.
Dr. Appiah said with Ghana’s current population being predominantly youthful, the country could not afford to leave anyone behind, but to ensure that their needs were holistically addressed to ensure national development.
Esi Asare Prah, a Representative of Marie Stopes International, Ghana, said adolescents lacked the recognition needed to make informed choices and decisions regarding their ASRH and rights.
She said this led to consequences such as unwanted pregnancies, high maternal mortalities and morbidity due to unsafe abortions.
“Ghana cannot achieve gender equality when about 7,000 girls are dropping out of school at the basic and secondary level, which is dangerous to achieving sustainable development for the next generation,” she said, adding that it had the tendency to derail all efforts at attaining the SDGs.
According to Ghana’s 2014 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), about 14% of antenatal attendants were adolescents aged between 15 and 19 years.
“We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results,” she said, and urged the media to devote much attention to amplifying simple and clear information on the ASRH issues to effect a change in the attitudes of service providers.
Professor Augustine Ankomah, the Country Director of the Population Council, described reproductive health as the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, but also in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes.
He spoke on the truth, myth and misconceptions relating to ASRH, saying studies had shown that more girls in the rural areas in Ghana were having sex earlier than their counterparts in urban centres.
The studies also showed that those girls were often from poor families hence their vulnerability, and said it was the reason why timely information and education was critical to ensuring delayed sexual intercourse and pregnancy among adolescents.
Madam Cecilia Senoo, the Executive Director, Hope for Future Generation, said achieving the SDGs would be a mirage if efforts were not doubled, and called for more action than talk.
Source: Kofi Ahovi || businessweekghana.com
A recent Guttmacher report published in April 2020 shows that more than half (53%) of all pregnancies in Ghana are unintended and about 71% of all abortions are illegal.
According to the report, northern zone recorded 23%, coastal zone recorded 51% while the middle zone recorded 66%. An estimated 23% of all pregnancies in Ghana in 2017 ended in abortion.
Again, the Ghana Statistical Service 2017 Maternal Health Survey shows that 32% of all 19 years olds are already mothers and evidence from the Ministry of Education’s Education Management Information System further confirms this unfortunate fate; 6,607 pregnancies from upper primary – SHS in the 2017/2018 academic year alone and this increased to about 7,293 pregnancies in the 2018/2019 academic year. Recent reports from the central region gender office stated about 4,100 teenage pregnancies were recorded from January to May alone; and while this is celebrated as a reduction of 500 pregnancies from last year, a report of over 4,000 adolescent pregnancies in one region alone should make any development-oriented person shiver.
Disclosing these figures at the pre-launch of the this year’s World Population Day in Accra, Patricia Antwi-Boasiako, Deputy Director – Operations and Advocacy at Marie Stopes Ghana, said, during the covid-19 lockdown in April 2020 her institution projected that 26,000 women and girls in Ghana could lose access to contraception due to significant reductions in service provision for three months (April – June) at Marie Stopes Ghana clinics, outreach areas, and private bluestar clinics due to covid-19. “This reduction in access to services, we foresee, could be as high as 58,000 women and girls if Covid-19 persist till December 2020” said Antwi-Boasiako.
“That is why for us as Marie Stopes Ghana, this year’s World Population Day theme, “Putting the brakes on COVID-19: how to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now, couldn’t be more appropriate”, she noted. She was of the view that safeguarding the health of women and girls, really translates to safeguarding the future and the economy; “when families, women and girls are adequately empowered and supported to plan their lives and decide when and how to have children, they are able to achieve their academic and career aspirations and thus contribute meaningfully to the economy”.
“Our ability to achieve the SDGs in 10years, to safeguard the future of our girls and ensure our development gains are indeed progressive and sustainable, depends largely on the investments we make today as a country”, she stated.
Dr. Leticia Adelaide Appiah- the Executive Director of National Population Council (NPC), on her part observed that, globally, the pandemic is threatening to derail many efforts including efforts to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet needs for family planning and zero sexual and gender based violence and harmful practices targets which are necessary in meeting SDG goals and in the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda.
She stressed that the NPC and its partners are committed to safe guarding the hard-fought gains and ensuring that sexual reproductive health rights and service stays on the local agenda to enlist societal and political wills in maintaining the momentum towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.
Dr. Appiah argued that investing in reproductive health would contribute to healthier individuals, healthier families, which would contribute to stronger and wealthier nations. She stressed that investments in reproductive health safeguards the lives of women and children, improves family and community wellbeing and boost economic gains; and yet as a country, we are far from achieving the benefits of reproductive health.
She added that the pandemic has presented the world a chance to address the imbalance to build strong and resilient health system and equitable development of all including women and girls. “Healthy and empowered women can bring about the change needed to create as sustainable future for all,” she noted.
The World Population Day is an annual event, observed on July 11 every year, which seeks to raise awareness of global population issues. The concept was established by Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989. WPD is celebrated in Ghana by National Population Council with support from the United Nations Population Fund and other development partners.
World Population Day aims to increase people’s awareness on various population issues such as the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.
By Kofi Ahovi