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UNFPA Representative in Egypt Dr. Aleksandar Bodiroza said that population growth is a multisectoral issue that requires a multisectoral response, in a roundtable discussion organized by the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies (ECES) on Tuesday.

“Family planning is a prerequisite, that is where we start,” he said, “but our response has to be multisectoral.”

Bodiroza highlighted the link between economic and population growth, stating that the dependency ratio in Egypt – population below 14 and above 64 years old – is at 62 percent. He explained that in ideal conditions the economic growth rate should be double that of the population growth.

He said that Egypt needs to look no further than its own experience in reducing fertility rates to replicate it, clarifying that it succeeded before in reducing fertility rates from 5.2 to 3.0 by putting right based family planning at the core of intervention and through realization of reproductive rights for all individual and couples in Egypt.

He explained that a better focus on education is what is currently needed to avoid the pitfalls that caused fertility rates to rise again.

“We forget that young people don’t stay forever young, they are future parents so we need to invest in their sexual and reproductive health education to prepare them for their role as parents,” Bodiroza said.

Bodiroza underlined the direct links between FGM, early marriage and population growth, explaining that nine out of 10 families who expose their daughters to FGM are also marrying them off early, which translates into a longer reproductive period and into more children.

“If a girl is married at age of 17, that contributes to population growth at 17.6 percent, if she is married at the age of 15, that is a 36 percent contribution to population growth,” he said.

FGM and early marriage contribute significantly to the current rates of population growth, he explained, “so we need to address them in comprehensive manner.”  

UNFPA, together with the support of the European Union, the governments of Norway, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands, have put forth a major and comprehensive rights-based program to support the Egyptian government in scaling up family planning programs, according to Bodiroza.

“But we are not alone, there are equally big programs by USAID and the World Bank and we have to make sure that whatever we do is done in sync with them,” he added.

The first session of the roundtable discussion, titled “How to Best Address to Population Problem,” brought together Dr. Amr Hassan, rapporteur for the National Population Council, Mr. Ahmed Abou Ali, ECES board member, Dr. Abla Abdel Latif, executive director and director of research at ECES and Eng. Tarek Tawfik, vice chairman of ECES. It was organized under the auspices of H.E. Prime Minister of Egypt, Dr. Mostafa Madbouli.