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Cablegate: Population Projections Off the Charts in Yemen

VZCZCXRO1078
PP RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHYN #2178/01 3430703
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 090703Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3338
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 002178

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEA/ARP FOR ANDREW MACDONALD
USAID FOR CHRIS KISCO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL SOCI KWMN KIRF ELAB EAID ECON
YM
SUBJECT: POPULATION PROJECTIONS OFF THE CHARTS IN YEMEN

1. (SBU) Summary. Population projections in Yemen are among
some of the highest in the world. According to the ROYG's
National Population Council, the Yemeni population
(approximately 23 million) will double within 23 years if
current growth rates continue. With assistance from the
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the ROYG's National
Population Council and the Ministry of Public Health and
Population create and implement government policy towards
combating overpopulation. Since 2000, the ROYG has developed
and implemented a National Reproductive Health Strategy to
standardize its approach. While the ROYG's policy is mostly
oriented towards Western reproductive health standards at the
highest levels, the ROYG will continue to struggle to
transfer the spirit of that policy to local governments and
rural areas. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Population projections in Yemen are among some of
the highest in the world. According to the ROYG's National
Population Council, the Yemeni population (approximately 23
million) will double within 23 years if current growth rates
continue. Officially, the population growth rate is 3.2
percent, while the fertility data is 6.2 children per woman
in urban areas and 6.7 in rural areas. (Comment: Both the
population growth and fertility rates are significantly
outdated and thus subject to discrepancies and may be
significantly higher. The population growth rate was last
determined during the 2004 census, and the fertility rate is
from 2003. End Comment.) High population growth rates have
resulted in a so-called "youth bulge" with 50 percent of the
population under the age of 15 and an additional 30 percent
between 15 and 29. Yemen lacks education and employment
prospects, and the young population is at risk for becoming a
source of social instability.

3. (SBU) With encouragement from the United Nations
Population Fund (UNFPA), the ROYG has recognized that the
rising population increasingly places burdens on natural
resources such as food and water and has implications for
social stability. In 1993, the ROYG established the National
Population Council to consider the problem of population
expansion. The Ministry of Public Health and Population
partners with international donors, such as the UNFPA, to
implement the National Population Strategy, developed by the
National Population Council.

ROYG'S POPULATION INSTITUTIONS
------------------------------

4. (U) The National Population Council has a mandate to
conduct monitoring, create policy, coordinate with other
bodies (such as the Ministries of Health and Education), and
increase public awareness. Abdul-Malik Ali Sharafuddin,
General Director of Planning and Resources in the Technical
Population Secretariat of the National Population Council,
told EconOff that the public awareness campaign is
particularly weak in rural areas where it is difficult to
reach 133,000 villages. There are 16 coordination committees
in the governorates to spread awareness of the importance of
family planning outside of urban areas, although their actual
reach is limited in scope.

5. (U) Collaboration is the name of the game when it comes
to combating overpopulation in Yemen, according to Dr. Jamila
Saleh Al-Raiby, Deputy Minister for Population at the
Ministry of Public Health and Population. Dr. Raiby told
EconOff that representatives from the Prime Minister's Office
and the Cabinet have attended recent meetings on the family
planning program at the Ministry. She said that things are
"going well, but we can't work alone." The Ministry of
Public Health and Population is advocating in the cabinet to
mobilize additional resources within the ROYG and is
attempting to gain support for family planning programming
from other key line ministries such as the Ministries of
Agriculture and Education.

THINKING STRATEGICALLY?
-----------------------

6. (SBU) Since 2000, the ROYG has developed and implemented
a National Reproductive Health Strategy to standardize its
approach to impending overpopulation. The goals of the
strategy include standardizing regional stores of
contraceptives, introducing a health information system,
updating manuals for family planning, and responding to the
high demand for contraceptives. With donor support, the
Ministry of Public Health and Population has conducted
outreach to students through a Health Education Center at the

SANAA 00002178 002 OF 002


University, NGOs, journalists, health officials, and
religious leaders. The ROYG is currently updating its plan
of action for 2010. (Comment: While the importance of a
national strategy for reproductive health is recognized
within the government, challenges indigenous to Yemeni
society still persist. When it comes to family size, Yemeni
families, in general, have an attitude that "God (Allah) will
take care of everything." Some also believe that any type of
contraceptive action is a "shame on Islam." The lack of
public awareness of reproductive health continues to remain a
major obstacle to countering overpopulation, despite the fact
that demand for contraceptives exceeds supply. End Comment.)


7. (U) Generally, Yemenis are reluctant to use and are
unfamiliar with family planning as a way to reduce population
growth. This is most acute in rural areas, which are also
the areas least engaged by central government ministries and
basic health practices education. The USG is providing
support for population growth reduction by financing midwife
training for family planning counseling, engaging religious
leaders on how to discuss family planning, education about
and distribution of contraceptives through local NGOs, and
development of quality family planning data, particularly in
rural areas.

INTERNATIONAL MOBILIZATION
--------------------------

8. (SBU) The UNFPA remains the major international mobilizer
of resources that focus on population and development,
gender, as well as reproductive health. Himyar Abdulmoghni,
Assistant Representative of Population, Development, and
Gender at UNFPA, told EconOff that his organization has
prioritized the effect of rapid population growth (3.2
percent) on limited resources. They identified programs
approaching family planning and reproductive health as
potentially having a major impact on population growth, and
have allocated USD 40 million for reproductive health.
(Note: UNFPA is limited to problems that approach population
and health, and cannot consider water scarcity and food
security in their programming. End Note.) UNFPA believes
that family planning could reduce up to 25 percent of
maternal mortality, which is currently one death for every
300 births. The UNFPA programs, in conjunction with the
Ministry of Public Health and Population, have gained support
at the highest levels of the ROYG. In 2007, President Saleh
announced that family planning is a priority and the Prime
Minister held a national population conference supported by
USAID which brought together key ROYG officials handling
population issues. Despite implicit executive support since
2007, UNFPA and other donors such as USAID have served as the
major instigators, pressuring the ROYG to move forward on
population, gender, and reproductive health issues.

COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) While the ROYG's policy is mostly oriented towards
Western reproductive health standards at the highest levels,
the ROYG will continue to struggle to transfer the spirit of
that policy to local governments and rural populations.
Public awareness remains the major challenge to successfully
implementing the National Reproductive Health Strategy.
Outreach to religious leaders and other opposition groups,
who have direct contact with and influence over rural
populations, may lead to sustainable thinking that has a
generational effect. End Comment.
SECHE

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