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General News Sun, 18 May 2003

Large Families responsible for poverty, underdevelopment

Mr. Mahami Salifu, Upper East Regional Minister, has observed that large families, unchecked population growth and scarce resources are the main causes of poverty in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

He said over 70 per cent of the people in the three regions were peasants, adding that, pressure exerted on the land by the ever-increasing population had resulted in loss of soil fertility and low crop yield.

Mr Salifu was speaking at a joint meeting of Chairpersons of Regional and District Population Advisory Committees from the three regions attended by Chairperson of the National Population Council (NPC), Mrs Virginia Ofosu-Amaah, in Bolgatanga on Thursday.

"In addition to these, we also have high illiteracy rates, environmental degradation, early marriages and other harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation," he said.

He said the combination of these factors perpetuate poverty and was the basis for the slow pace of development in the regions.

The Regional Minister stressed the commitment of the government to tackle population issues with the importance they deserve and commended the United Nations Population Fund and the National Population Council for placing emphasis on Northern Ghana under the Fourth Country Programme.

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He pledged the preparedness of the Regional Co-ordinating Council to ensure budgetary allocations to District Assembles to support population activities.

Mrs. Ofosu-Amaah said her visit was to learn at first hand the problems of the Population Advisory Committees in the regions for NPC assistance.

She said development could be meaningful only if it was human-centred and urged the Regional and District Population Committees to develop strategies that focus on the people in their efforts.

"This process requires you to take into account certain population parameters which include the size of the population, the rate at which it grows, fertility and mortality levels, migration trends, distribution and age structure of the population, and the influence that these have on economic growth and other development parameters," she said.

Mrs. Ofosu-Amaah said poverty levels in the three regions were among the highest in the country, adding that, due to high school drop-out rates a significant percentage of children in the area lacked opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills, which would make them productive.

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She appealed to Chiefs in the area to examine traditional practices and values, which did not promote the well being of women, with a view of making proposals for reforms consistent with the objectives of the Revised National Population Policy.

Mr. Sylvester Agangmikre, Upper East Regional Population Officer, said with United Nations Population Fund support, District Population Advisory Committees had been established in 24 districts in northern Ghana.

He said most of the Committees had already identified specific population-related issues in their localities that needed redress and called for resources to enable them implement their plans.

Professor John S. Nabilla, Vice Chairman and Dr Richard Turkson, Executive Director of the NPC attended the meeting.

Source: gna