Let us begin by looking at some of the essential features of the 1994 population policy as contained in the National Population Policy and issued by the National Population Council. Among the essential features of the policy document, the following may be briefly mentioned:
Matters regarding the age structure of the population were an important feature of the policy. The document highlights the youthful age structure of the population. The concern here is that this creates a high potential for rapid growth of the population, for it means that a substantial proportion of the population is concentrated in the sexually active and reproductive or child bearing ages. The youthful age structure also means a high dependency burden (on the part of the teeming young population) on the economy.
A great concern is expressed about the uneven spatial distribution of the population, which has brought about high population density in some parts of the country and has contributed to the degradation of the environment.
The document notes that the country has made significant progress over the past three decades (that is, roughly since 1969) in the improvement of the health and nutritional conditions of the population, a fact that has resulted in declining mortality rates and thus, many more people surviving into adulthood than before. It notes,nevertheless, that there is a need to pursue further measures to alleviate mass property and enhance the well being of the population.
The document remarks on the significant change that has emerged on our population scene. This is the increased number of the aged in our society, a situation that can be said to have resulted from the declining mortality rates, which have in turn given a rise to a trend in longevity. An important feature of the policy is to ensure an adequate maintenance and full integration of the aged and persons with disabilities into the society and to create opportunities for the latter to work and enhance their chances of leading normal lives. The serious attention that was to be paid to persons living with disabilities in the country as a matter of official policy was something new.
Matters connected with the vulnerability of women,children and the youth are highlighted in the policy document, together with the attendant issues of unemployment, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and other social vices. Steps were taken to promote the health and welfare of mothers and children by preventing premature illness,unsafe abortions and premature maternal deaths. Measures were to be instituted to enhance the status of women in the society.
The 1994 population policy highlights the persistently high rate of fertility as a result of a very low level of modern contraceptive use. The intention of the government was to vigorously promote programmes to provide information, advice and assistance to couples wishing to space or limit their reproduction is also an important feature of the policy.
Also highlighted in the policy is the predominantly rural character of the population which indicates that 68% of Ghana’s population resides in the rural areas. Programmes were to be established to guide both the spatial distribution of the population and even distribution of population between urban and rural areas.
The policy pays particular attention to the alarming rate of the spread of HIV/AIDS over the past few years and calls for intensive population programmes to prevent this dreadful disease from spreading to the wider population. This is indeed a new and significant feature of the population policy. The HIV/AIDS disease did not exist in 1969, no reference was therefore made to it in the 1969 policy.
The policy makes reference to the 1992 Constitution that enjoins the government to “maintain a population policy” consistent with the aspirations and development needs and objectives of Ghana. Thus, the policy acknowledges the prescription or mandate of the constitution to be given to population issues in the country’s development plans and programmes.
The ultimate goal of the 1994 population policy was to ensure that the nation maintains a level of population growth that is constituent with national development objectives to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of the people of Ghana.
In short, the 1994 population policy gave due consideration to emerging issues essentially related to population, such as concerns about women, children, the youth, the aged and persons with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, population and the environment, population and health and nutrition, population and education, population and employment, population and housing,and the law that relates to population issues.
The efforts being made by the government in order to realize the objectives and targets set by the 1994 population policy of Ghana can be seen in the strategic programmes that have been designed to implement those objectives or prescriptions of the policy. Several of these strategies and programmes may be mentioned here. Matters relating to health, education, family planning, food and nutrition, women and children, the aged and physically challenged persons are crucial to the implementation of the policy and feature prominently in the strategies and programmes. The strategies, programmes and activities adopted in order to implement the policy are several and include the following:
Strengthen the national population council
The national population council was established in May 1992 to advise the government on population and related issues, including the implementation of population policies and goals that the government would adopt. Since the adoption of the 1994 population policy, the NPC has been strengthened in several ways to enable it perform its functions most satisfactorily.
The NPC has a functional secretariat with a substantive executive director and two directors and qualified programme officers, almost all of whom have masters degree. The secretariat has three functioning technical advisory committees on research, monitoring and evaluation, on policy and on training. NPC also has ten regional population officers and their deputies. NPC is supported by the United Nations Population Fund. Thus it would be correct to say that, since its establishment , the capacity of the NPC has been built over the years and is in position to implement the government’s policy on population. The strengthening of NPC is an effort on the part of the government to implement the 1994 population policy of Ghana.
Through the NPC and the national development planning commission,which was set up by the 1992 Ghana constitution (Articles 86 and 87), the population factor was to be incorporated in all national development planning activities or programmes. Thus, the population factor has, as not before, become a matter of urgent concern for the government, for the government sees this factor as crucial to reducing poverty in the nation and improving the quality of the life of the people.
Involving the private sector
The government has involved private organisations and non-governmental organisations in the performance of activities that relate to various aspects of life: particularly, in the areas of health, nutrition, education, and so on. Among the NGOs, the following may be mentioned: Ghana Social Marketing Foundation, Children’s Rights Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Social Investment Fund, and many more others. Most of these NGOs operate in or focus their attention on, the rural communities; thus a rural-based strategy has been adopted to deal with problems faced by people in rural areas. This is intended to reduce poverty, which is widespread in the rural areas, and so improve the standards of living of people in those areas. Reducing poverty will have healthy effect on high population growth.
Promoting a wider range of family planning service.
One aspect of the effort at implementing the 1994 population policy relates to the promotion of a wide range of family planning service. Family planning is now being pursued with vigor and relentlessness. The government, through its agencies such as NPC and the ministry of health has introduced both short term and long term methods.
The short term methods include the following: the contraceptive pill which a woman takes every day to prevent pregnancy , the foaming tablet, which the woman inserts in her vagina ten minutes before sex to prevent pregnancy, a male condom which the man wears on his erect penis to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, a female condom which is fit into a woman’s vagina before sexual intercourse to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.
Long term methods include the following: Intrauterine Device (IUD), a small flexible device that is placed in the woman’s womb through the vagina to prevent pregnancy for up to ten years, vasectomy (male sterilization), a permanent method that blocks the tubes that carry the sperm from a man’s testicles to the penis and thus, prevents the man from making a woman pregnant; female sterilization, a permanent procedure for women that blocks the tubes that carry eggs from the egg bag to the womb and, thus, prevents the man’s sperm from uniting with the woman’s egg and causing pregnancy for up to five years, and the inject able given to a woman at regular intervals of one month, or two or three months to prevent pregnancy. These are among the modern long term methods for family planning service.
The government has, since the adoption of the 1994 population policy embarked on a vigorous decentralization policy and strategy. In doing so, however, the government is implementing a provision of the 1992 Ghana constitution (article 240). In adopting the decentralization policy, the government recognizes the participation of the poor in designing the poverty-reduction programmes and strategies and thus, the need to promote the political empowerment of the poor. In pursuit of the policy of decentralization, the NPC works closely with the District Assemblies and the various communities to design and implement population programmes and activities. Decentralization promotes community development and allows the communities to do what they can, and what is within their political power, toward re development of their own communities in order to make life better for themselves.
On the government efforts at improving education as part of the measures being taken to implement the national population policy.
Persons with disabilities
The government has taken action to promote the full integration of the persons living disabilities in all aspects of national life. The most recent and most outstandin of such actions is the Disability Law that is due to be enacted by the Parliament. The law seeks to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and remove the social barriers they frequently face.
The National Health Insurance Scheme
On the basis of a law enacted by the Parliament in 2003, the government has established the National Health Insurance Scheme to ensure that the majority of the population- including the poor- have access to good medical care. The outstanding and most important feature of the Scheme is that the cost of health care has now been made affordable to all Ghanaians. Districts and communities throughout the nation are registering with the scheme. However, more education on the scheme needs to be given to people, particularly those in the rural areas, to enable them to understand what it is about and the need for them to join it so that they can benefit from it. When the scheme is fully in operation, it will enable people to have greater access to modern medical facilities and help improve the life expectancy of Ghanaians.
NHIS was to replace the previously existing “Cash and carry” system which required sick people who went to the hospital to pay for hospital charges before they were treated and which prevented most poor people from attending the hospital because they could not afford the cost of the health care. In the case of the NHIS, you only need to be have registered with the scheme to attend the hospital and to be treated without having to pay any hospital charges. So, it was right that the “Cash and carry” system was abolished.
It is now a common knowledge that HIV/Aids has become a serious health problem in Ghana, a problem that also affects the efforts at developing the nation. Because of the social and economic impact of the disease, the government has decided to adopt a multi-sectoral approach to fight the epidemic.