World Population Day: Safeguarding women and youth to secure humanity
Stephen Ndegwa
Lyette Reback and her husband David with their 16 children, Florida, U.S., /VCG

Lyette Reback and her husband David with their 16 children, Florida, U.S., /VCG

Editor's note: Stephen Ndegwa is a Nairobi-based communication expert, lecturer-scholar at the United States International University-Africa, author and international affairs columnist. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Without women, maybe none of us would be here today; neither would the hundreds of millions who have preceded us. By the last count in March 2020, the world's population was estimated at 7.8 billion people, and rising rapidly.

While it took over 200 millennia for human population to reach one billion people, it has taken a couple of centuries to hit the seven billion mark. If the current trend in population growth remains constant, the world's population is projected to reach about 10 billion in 2050, and more than 11 billion in 2100.

Putting sense to these daunting figures is one of the global challenges that will shape the conversation during the World Population Day (WPD) on July 11. This year the focus of the occasion is, "Putting the brakes on COVID-19: how to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now.”

The correlation here seems to be that the coronavirus pandemic is a threat to the well-being of the world's womenfolk, and by extension, humanity.

A participant poses on the catwalk during the Mr & Miss Albinism Kenya Beauty Pageant 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya, November 30 , 2018. /VCG

A participant poses on the catwalk during the Mr & Miss Albinism Kenya Beauty Pageant 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya, November 30 , 2018. /VCG

Indeed, even as COVID-19 has affected everyone in one way or the other, women have been impacted negatively more. For instance, women form the core of frontline workers against the pandemic, putting a higher number of them at greater risk of contracting the virus.

Besides, with the curtailment of movement, many women are unable to participate in crucial income generating activities for the sustenance of their families. This has also exposed them to gender based domestic violence from those close to conflicts arising from extended stay-at-home requirements. 

A research by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released on April 27 observes that persistence of the pandemic will have major disruptions to health services, which will expose 47 million vulnerable women and girls to major challenges in meeting their sexual and reproductive health needs. And continued lack of modern contraceptives due to supply chain disruptions will result in seven million unintended pregnancies. 

In addition, it predicts that if the lockdown continues for six months, it will result in 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence, two million cases of female genital mutilation(FGM), and 13 million child marriages in the next ten years.

Consequently, the UNFPA will use the WPD 2020 to "raise awareness about the vulnerabilities of women and girls during the pandemic," rallied at the 2019 International Conference on Population and Development in Nairobi, Kenya.

But COVID-19 is not only posing risks to girls and women, but also to the old and youth. It is on record that older people, particularly those who are 60 years and over, are succumbing more to the coronavirus. 

The implication is that this demographic will need more resource allocation for COVID-19 prevention and treatment, which will be an extra burden to already stretched national budgets due to economic shutdowns.

Adolescents and the youth have been caught up in the middle of the pandemic. 

On one side, their future has been disrupted, mainly due to the massive closure of educational institutions. In countries like Kenya, the government has finally cancelled the 2020 school calendar, which will delay national exams until 2021, and require pupils and students to repeat classes.

Massive economic damage also means that economic recovery efforts might take long to break even, greatly hampering job and business opportunities for the young as they leave college.

Still, this young demographic holds the world's future prospects. While their welfare must be safeguarded, it is vital that they are also involved in pandemic mitigation measures to avoid irreparable damage to their future. UNFPA observes that "young people can be an important resource in mitigating risks, and community outreach in this crisis."

Ultimately, no one should be left behind in human development, regardless of their demographic status.

According to a recent report released by the UN Development Program titled, "COVID-19 And Human Development: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery," the pandemic is not really the original cause of the crises currently facing human development, especially in the areas of income, health, and education.

Hopefully, through research, study of other communities' experiences and courageous trial and error moves, containing measures against COVID-19 will have lasting effects on people's lives.

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