Burkina Faso’s population is growing increasingly rapidly largely because every woman in the country bears on average seven children, according to national census results published in August.
Burkina Faso has a population of 13.31 million which is expanding by 2.95 percent every year, the census showed. If the current growth rate continues, the country, which is among the very poorest in the world, will be more than 20 million strong by 2020.
“The census indicates that between 1996 and 2006 the population grew by 341,000 every year, which is considerable”, says Bamory Ouattara, director of the National Institute for Demographics and Statistics (INSD).
Women are slightly in the majority in Burkina Faso, representing 52 percent of the population. Meanwhile the urban population, which was almost non-existent in the 1970s, has multiplied by eight, with the highest density found in the capital Ouagadougou.
Activists in Burkina Faso are using the data to lobby for more political attention to birth control, which they say has been ignored because reproductive health services are still focused on preventing HIV/AIDS, even though prevalence has shrunk from 7 percent in the early 1990s to 2 percent now, according to UN statistics.
“We need clear political commitment, strong words from our leaders to reposition family planning,” said Brigitte Thiombiano, coordinator of the Clinic for Midwives, the first official clinic for reproductive health promotion in Burkina Faso, established in 1985.
“Family planning activities and sensitisation must be restarted, by bringing back community-based activities in villages, districts, and by sensitising the activists that were mobilized for HIV/AIDS to get them back behind family planning,” Thiombiano said.
The situation is “alarming”, according to Jean Louis Dakuyo, head of planning and research at the National Council for Population (CONAPO). “We need to revisit the relations between population and development in our country, for if we do not control the growth rate, make it compatible to our resources, living standards will not improve.”
“Authorities need to understand that doing family planning does not mean implementing Malthusian policies, but it is all about progress for all groups, including women who need fewer children to be healthy and economically productive,” Dakuyo added.
Contraception link with MMR
In Burkina Faso, just 14 percent of people use contraception, according to the Ministry of Health, shrinking to 9 percent in some rural areas. “This means after 20 years of [family planning] activities we have not done much and we need to step up efforts,” Ouedraogo of the Burkina Association for Family Well-Being (ABBF) said.
Last month, the Burkina Faso government launched a US$7 billion programme, which addresses HIV/AIDS, family planning and female genital cutting, with family planning at the centre of the project.
The government has said it believes contraception will also help reduce the maternal mortality rate. The number of women who die giving birth in Burkina Faso is among the highest in the sub-region: 484 women die for 100,000 children born. The government has said it plans to reduce the death toll by 30 percent before 2008.
Surveys conducted by the Burkina Faso Ministry of Health have shown that the lower the use of contraception, the higher the maternal mortality rate. To promote contraceptive use the government, assisted by partners such as the UN Population Fund and the US Agency for International Development, adopted a 10-year (2006-2015) six billion CFA strategic plan to ensure the availability of contraceptive products country-wide.