Search

 

Cablegate: Niger Draft Population Policy Declaration

VZCZCXRO0385
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0920/01 2421032
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301032Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2844
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUFGCIN/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 NIAMEY 000920

SIPDIS

AIDAC, SIPDIS

ACCRA FOR USAID
DAKAR FOR USAID
AF/W FOR BACHMANN
INR FOR BEGOSIAN
PRM FOR POLLACK

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID EAGR SOCI SENV NG

SUBJECT: NIGER DRAFT POPULATION POLICY DECLARATION

REF: NIAMEY 574

1. SUMMARY. THE MINISTRY OF POPULATION AND SOCIAL ACTION RELEASED
SUBJECT DECLARATION IN JULY 2006. EMBASSY BELIEVES IT OF SOME
SIGNIFICANCE THAT THE GOVERNMENT OF NIGER (GON) RELEASED SUCH A
DECLARATION, PARTICULARLY IN VIEW OF THE STRONG OPPOSITION SHOWN IN
THE PAST BY SOME CONSERVATIVE ISLAMIC GROUPS TO SOME OF THE ISSUES
TOUCHED UPON IN THE DOCUMENT. SUBJECTS INCLUDE: FAMILY PLANNING,
FAMILY LAW, AND THE USE OF MODERN CONTRACEPTIVES. OVERALL, THIS
DOCUMENT REFLECTS GON CONCERN ABOUT THE HARSH DEVELOPMENT
CONSEQUENCES OF ITS HIGH ANNUAL POPULATION GROWTH RATE (THE WORLD'S
HIGHEST AT 3.3%) AND ITS POSSIBLE WILLINGNESS TO BEGIN IN EARNEST
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ACTIVITIES NEEDED TO HELP SLOW THIS GROWTH
RATE. THE FOLLOWING HIGHLIGHTS THE DAUNTING DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES
FACED BY NIGER. END SUMMARY

--------------------------------------------- ---------
DIRE CONSEQUENCES OF THE WORLD'S HIGHEST FERTILITY RATE
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. THE DECLARATION CLEARLY NOTES THAT NIGER'S HIGH POPULATION
GROWTH RATE STEMS FROM THE HIGH FERTILITY RATE OF WOMEN OF
REPRODUCTIVE AGE. CURRENTLY, THIS RATE IS ESTIMATED AT 7.2 CHILDREN
PER WOMAN (HIGHEST FERTILITY RATE IN THE WORLD.) THE FACTORS THAT
CONTRIBUTE TO SUCH A HIGH RATE LEND THEMSELVES TO THE CONSISTENT
RANKING OF NIGER AT THE BOTTOM OF THE U.N.'S HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX
FOR MORE THAN A DECADE.

3. THE PAPER NOTES THE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES SUCH A FAST POPULATION
GROWTH RATE (THE WORLD'S FASTEST) HAS ON NIGER'S FRAGILE
ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMY, EMPLOYMENT, AND ITS WEAK HEALTH AND EDUCATION
INFRASTRUCTURES. NIGER'S NATIONAL POPULATION HAS GROWN FROM 3
MILLION IN 1960 TO 11.1 MILLION IN 2001, TO NEARLY 12.5 MILLION
TODAY. AT THE SAME TIME, MUCH OF THE AVAILABLE CULTIVATABLE LAND
HAS BEEN DEGRADED BY OVER-CULTIVATION, DESERT ENCROACHMENT AND
INCREASED ARIDITY, AND PASTORAL LANDS HAVE BEEN OVERGRAZED. ALL
THIS ADDS TREMENDOUSLY TO THE NUMBER OF CONFLICTS BETWEEN
AGRICULTURALISTS AND PASTORALISTS, AS WELL AS TO OTHER KINDS OF
CONFLICT AND CRIME.

4. MORE TROUBLING IS THE PROJECTION THAT THE NATIONAL POPULATION
WILL REACH 17 MILLION IN 2015; THAT IS NEARLY 5 MILLION MORE PEOPLE
IN A BRIEF NINE YEARS. THIS KEY DEMOGRAPHIC FACT NEEDS TO BE WELL
NOTED BY DEVELOPMENT PLANNERS, FOOD SECURITY SPECIALISTS, ETC. AT
THE CURRENT RATE, NIGER'S POPULATION IS PROJECTED TO REACH 56
MILLION PEOPLE IN 2050, AND OVER HALF OF THESE PEOPLE WILL LIVE IN
URBAN AREAS AND OVER 50 PERCENT WILL BE LESS THAN 15 YEARS OLD. SUCH
SOBERING POPULATION NUMBERS ARE THE CAUSE FOR GREAT CONCERN AND
LEAVE NO DOUBT THAT SOMETHING WILL HAVE TO GIVE IN THE YEARS TO
COME.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
FAST GROWING POPULATION AND DWINDLING RESOURCE BASE SPELLS TROUBLE
FOR NIGER'S DEVELOPMENT PROSPECTS
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. THESE RUDE FACTS HAVE ALL CONTRIBUTED FOR YEARS TO A CONSISTENT
DOWNWARD TREND IN PER CAPITA FOOD PRODUCTION AND THE REDUCTION OF
COPING MECHANISM OPTIONS DURING TIMES OF STRESS, E.G., DURING
PERIODS OF RECURRENT DROUGHT. IN SUM, IF A DROUGHT STRIKES MANY
MORE PEOPLE THAN BEFORE ARE UNABLE TO COPE AND, EVEN WITHOUT
DROUGHT, IT IS RARE FOR ANY FAMILY TO PRODUCE ENOUGH FOOD TO CARRY
IT THROUGH TO THE NEXT ANNUAL HARVEST. IN A GOOD RAINFALL YEAR,
EVEN THE BETTER OFF FAMILIES PRODUCE ONLY ENOUGH FOOD FOR THREE TO
FIVE MONTHS AND THIS FALLS FAR SHORT OF THE 10 TO 12 MONTHS NEEDED.
GONE ARE THE DAYS OF FULL HOUSEHOLD GRANARIES THAT MADE FAMILIES IN
NIGER SECURE AND HAPPY.

6. THE MOST VULNERABLE --- CHILDREN, THE ELDERLY, PREGNANT AND
LACTATING MOTHERS --- ARE THE WORST HIT.
LITTLE WONDER THAT NIGER'S CHILDREN SUFFER GREATLY FROM WHAT HAS
INCREASINGLY BECOME A PERMANENT MALNUTRITION CRISIS, WITH GLOBAL
ACUTE MALNUTRITION RATES ROUTINELY REPORTED FOR MANY YEARS AT
EMERGENCY LEVELS. REVERSING THIS CRISIS AND THE WORSENING
STRUCTURAL FOOD DEFICIT TREND THAT CONFRONT NIGER WILL TAKE MUCH
COMMITMENT AND THE JUDICIOUS USE OF ASSISTANCE RESOURCES FOR MANY
YEARS TO COME BY THE GON AND DONORS. A BETTER WAY FORWARD MUST BE
FOUND IF GREATER SUFFERING IS TO BE AVOIDED.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
WORRISOME STATISTICS AND THE WORST YET TO COME
--------------------------------------------- ---------

7. THE DECLARATION IS FULL OF USEFUL, BUT TROUBLING STATISTICS SUCH
AS THE FOLLOWING:

NIAMEY 00000920 002 OF 003

- 62% OF WOMEN AGED 15 TO 19 ARE MARRIED
- THE MEDIAN AGE OF MARRIAGE IS 15 (THE GON WOULD LIKE TO SEE THIS
GO UP TO 19 BY 2015)
- THE MODERN CONTRACEPTIVE RATE IS 8% (GON AIMS TO INCREASE THIS TO
18% BY 2015)
- ONLY 18% OF BIRTHS ARE IN A HEALTH FACILITY
- 50% OF THE POPULATION LIVES MORE THAN 5 KMS FROM A HEALTH
FACILITY
- 57% OF THE POPULATION DOES NOT HAVE ACCESS TO POTABLE WATER
- 48% OF CHILDREN BETWEEN THE AGES OF 7 AND 12 ARE NOT IN SCHOOL
- 244 OUT OF EVERY 1,000 CHILDREN BORN DIE BEFORE THEIR 1ST BIRTHDAY
(THAT MEANS ABOUT 1 OUT OF EVERY 4 CHILDREN BORN DIES - THE GON
WANTS TO REDUCE THIS RATE TO 153 PER 1,000 BY 2015)

8. BESIDES THE VARIOUS GON OBJECTIVES NOTED ABOVE, THE GON AIMS TO
REDUCE THE OVERALL ANNUAL POPULATION GROWTH RATE FROM 3.3% TO 2.5%
BY 2015, AND DOING THIS WILL REQUIRE ACHIEVING ITS OTHER OBJECTIVE
OF REDUCING THE FERTILITY RATE FROM 7.2 TO 5.6. AT THE SAME TIME,
THE GON IS AIMING TO HAVE ALL CHILDREN OF SCHOOL AGE IN PRIMARY
SCHOOL BY 2015, AS WELL AS ALL CHILDREN UNDER-FIVE FULLY VACCINATED.
THE DECLARATION ALSO SUPPORTS EXCLUSIVE BREAST FEEDING FOR THE
FIRST SIX MONTHS. THESE ARE INDEED HUGE AMBITIONS AND THE CLOCK IS
TICKING.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
NOT ENOUGH GOOD LAND AND A FEW VIABLE ALTERNATIVES
--------------------------------------------- ---------

9. THE PAPER ASSERTS THAT THE AVERAGE CARRYING CAPACITY OF THE LAND
IN NIGER IS 15 PEOPLE PER SQUARE KILOMETER; THIS COMPARES WITH AN
ACTUAL AVERAGE IN MANY AREAS OF NIGER OF 50 PEOPLE PER SQUARE
KILOMETER. IT IS WORTH NOTING THERE ARE MORE DENSELY POPULATED AREAS
IN NIGER (E.G., THE AREAS SOUTH OF ZINDER) WHERE THE POPULATION
DENSITY IS NEAR OR OVER 100 PEOPLE PER SQUARE KILOMETER.

10. THE PAPER NOTES THE HEAVY IMPACT OF THIS HIGHER POPULATION
DENSITY ON LAND USE. SHRINKING FAMILY FARM SIZES, OVER-CULTIVATED
SOILS, WITH FEW ARE NO SOIL-FERTILITY RAISING INPUTS, ARE ATTRIBUTED
TO THE FAST-GROWING POPULATION. THESE KEY FACTORS ALL CONTRIBUTE TO
A TREND OF DOWNWARD FOOD PRODUCTION PER CAPITA. THE PAPER STATES
THAT TRADITIONAL AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES HAVE REACHED
THEIR LIMITS AND CAN NO LONGER ASSURE THE FOOD SECURITY OF NIGER'S
POPULATION. THIS RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT NIGER'S VIABLE
DEVELOPMENT OPTIONS ARE.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
VICIOUS CYCLE OF ANEMIC MOTHERS AND LOW BIRTH WEIGHTS
--------------------------------------------- ---------

11. ALTHOUGH IT IS NOT MENTIONED IN THIS DRAFT DECLARATION, IT MAKES
SENSE TO ADD TO THE INFORMATION ALREADY CITED THE FACT THAT A HIGH
PERCENTAGE OF BABIES ARE BORN WITH A LOW BIRTH WEIGHT (LESS THAN 2.5
KGS. THIS FACT CONTRIBUTES HEAVILY TO THE HIGH LEVEL OF INFANT
MORTALITY WITNESSED IN NIGER AND, FOR THOSE INFANTS WHO SURVIVE, TO
A HIGH LEVEL OF WASTING AND STUNTING (40% OF NIGER'S CHILDREN ARE
STUNTED.) THIS LOW BIRTH WEIGHT FACTOR IS OF KEY IMPORTANCE WHEN
EVALUATING NIGER'S LONG-STANDING CHRONIC CHILD MALNUTRITION CRISIS.


12. LOW BIRTH WEIGHTS ARE DUE TO UNDER-NOURISHED, ANEMIC MOTHERS,
AND TO THE MARRIAGE OF WOMEN AT A YOUNG AGE. ANOTHER TERRIBLE
CONSEQUENCE OF A PREPONDERANCE OF TEEN-AGE MARRIAGES IS A RECORD
HIGH NUMBER OF MOTHERS SUFFERING FROM OBSTETRIC FISTULA DURING THE
BIRTH OF THEIR CHILD. ANOTHER TELLING SIGN OF THE OVERALL ALARMING
SCENARIO FOR NIGER IS ITS POSSESSION OF THE WORLD'S HIGHEST
MATERNAL MORTALITY RATE. COMPARING NIGER'S HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
STATISTICS WITH OTHER DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, INCLUDING OTHER AFRICAN
ONES, NIGER LOOKS LIKE ONE OF THE WORST PLACES IN THE WORLD TO BE A
CHILD OR A WOMAN.

--------------------------------------------- --------
ACTION LONG OVERDUE BUT ISLAMISTS RESISTING CHANGE
--------------------------------------------- --------

13. COMMENT. THERE IS MORE IN THE POPULATION DOCUMENT, BUT THE
ABOVE SHOULD SUFFICE AS A REMINDER OF THE SEVERITY OF NIGER'S
DEVELOPMENT PREDICAMENT AND OF ALL THE THINGS THE GON WILL NEED TO
DO FROM NOW UNTIL 2015 TO SLOW DOWN NIGER'S FAST POPULATION GROWTH.
MUCH OF WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE GON POPULATION DOCUMENT HAS BEEN
SAID MANY TIMES IN THE PAST BUT, MAYBE THIS TIME THE INCREASED
GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION WILL MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.

HOPEFULLY, NIGER WILL UNDERTAKE MEASURES THAT MOST AFRICAN
COUNTRIES, INCLUDING PREDOMINATELY MUSLIM ONES, HAVE ALREADY BEGUN

NIAMEY 00000920 003 OF 003


TO APPLY FOR SOME TIME. HOWEVER, GIVEN THE STRONG OPPOSITION OF
CONSERVATIVE ISLAMIC GROUPS THAT KEPT THE GON FROM ADOPTING THE
FAMILY CODE (CODE DE FAMILLE) FOR OVER 20 YEARS AND, MORE RECENTLY,
FROM ADOPTING THE AFRICAN UNION'S PROTOCOL ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS
(REFTEL), IT IS REMARKABLE THAT THIS DECLARATION MAKES REFERENCE TO
ACTING ON THE VERY SAME THINGS THE CODE AND PROTOCOL ESPOUSE (E.G.,
RAISE THE LEGAL MARRIAGE AGE FOR WOMEN TO 19).

14. IF THIS DRAFT DECLARATION OBTAINS FINAL APPROVAL ROUND, WE
EXPECT STRONG RESISTENCE FROM SOME ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST GROUPS
(NOTE: NIGER IS A SECULAR STATE AND 95 PERCENT OF ITS POPULATION IS
MUSLIM.) KEY GENDER EQUITY ISSUES AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS WILL BE THE
CENTER OF THE DEBATE. IT WILL BE HARD FOR NIGER TO ADVANCE AS LONG
AS THE GENERAL STATUS OF WOMEN REMAINS SO LOW, AND THE WOMEN'S
LITERACY RATE OF ONLY EIGHT PERCENT DQS NOT SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVE.


15. THE GON POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY, WHICH PLACES EMPHASIS ON
IMPROVING SCHOLARITY, LITERACY, HEALTH CARE ACCESSIBILITY, FOOD
SECURITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, IS A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
HOWEVER, THE GON'S ABILITY TO ADDRESS THE COUNTRY'S HIGH POPULATION
GROWTH WILL AFFECT ITS CAPACITY TO IMPLEMENT SUCCESSFULLY THE
STRATEGY IT HOPES WILL REDUCE POVERTY IN NIGER AND HELP THE GON MEET
THE UNITED NATIONS 2015 MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS. END COMMENT.

ALLEN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

ALRANZ: Denounces US Senate Confirmation Of Judge Barrett

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa denounces the US Senate’s confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court seat formerly held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. “This action demonstrates the rank hypocrisy of the once-respected upper chamber ... More>>

OECD: COVID-19 Crisis Puts Migration And Progress On Integration At Risk, Says

Watch the live webcast of the press conference Migration flows have increased over the past decade and some progress has been made to improve the integration of immigrants in the host countries. But some of these gains may be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic ... More>>

Reporters Without Borders: Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing Marred By Barriers To Open Justice

After monitoring four weeks of evidence in the US extradition proceedings against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates concern regarding the targeting of Assange for his contributions to journalism, and calls ... More>>

OHCHR: Stranded Migrants Need Safe And Dignified Return – UN Migrant Workers Committee

The UN Committee on Migrant Workers has today called on governments to take immediate action to address the inhumane conditions of migrant workers who are stranded in detention camps and ensure they can have an orderly, safe and dignified return to ... More>>