by Ronald Ssekandi
OMORO, Uganda, July 11 (Xinhua) -- As the world commemorated World Population Day on Wednesday, experts urged Uganda to scale up provision of family planning services to cut the country's alarming population growth rate.
Uganda has one of the highest population growth rates in the world, growing at an annual average of 3.1 percent compared to the global average of 1.2 percent, according to government figures.
The country also has one of the world's youngest population, with 75 percent of people below the age of 30 and 58 percent under the age of 20.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) projects that Uganda's population will swell to 75 million people by 2040 from the current 38 million people.
Experts argue that this rapid population growth has to be checked, noting that scaling up the provision of family planning services across the country was one of the sure ways.
Jotham Musinguzi, Director General of National Population Council, a state agency told Xinhua in an interview that there is evidence that investing in family planning reduces poverty, increases participation in education and gives women a greater say in their households and communities.
The 2014 Demographic Dividend Report shows that investment in family planning would accelerate fertility decline, and coupled with mortality decline, the ratio of working age adults would significantly increase relative to young dependents, thus propelling Uganda to economic growth.
Musinguzi argued that Uganda needs to mobilize its international development partners to increase funding to the provision of family planning services.
"Uganda has a low contraceptive reception although it has increased from 24 percent to 35 percent. But still 35 percent is not good enough, our aim is that by 2020, we should have gone to 50 percent. So we have a long way to go," Musinguzi said.
Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA representative in Uganda, argued that family planning is one of the highest-return on investment a country can make.
"For every additional U.S. dollar spent providing family planning services in Uganda, more than three dollars would be saved in pregnancy related medical care," Sibenaler said at the commemoration of World Population Day here in the northern Ugandan district of Omoro.
The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016 shows that girls start giving birth early, one in four girls aged 15-19 have either given birth or are pregnant with their first child.
Reacting to the high teenage pregnancy levels, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged leaders to sensitize the communities and urge them to take the girls to school.
Museveni in a speech read for him by his vice president Edward Ssekandi at the World Population Day commemoration said that the pregnancy levels may be high because many girls are not attending school.
Achilles Kiwanuka, a program officer at Partners in Population and Development, an intergovernmental organization said that Uganda needs to embark on an awareness campaign to sensitize the public about family planning.
He argued that it is in Uganda's interest to have a population that it can cater for if it wants to fast track its development.