By Taddeo Bwambale
Uganda is the leading country with the youngest population in the world, the State of Uganda Population Report 2012 reveals.
A total of 78% of Ugandans are below the age of 30 years and 52% below 15 years. There are 6.5million Ugandans in the age group 18-30 years and these constitute 21.3% of the population. This age group is projected to grow to 7.7million young people in 2015.
The report urges the Government to involve youth in development programmes to reduce the growing dependency syndrome.
Launching the report at Golf Course Hotel yesterday, finance minister, Maria Kiwanuka warned that Uganda risked experiencing a 'demographic disaster' if the high population growth rate is not matched with provision of quality social services.
"We should plan to transform this group into a future productive force. We need the private sector to help government to flesh out the infrastructure framework," she said.
She noted that the rapid population growth rate was putting pressure on available resources in all sectors of the economy.
She promised that the Government would put in place the supporting infrastructure to encourage investment, and appealed to the private sector to support the delivery of key health services.
She said the Government was faced with competing needs and urged donors to increase funding for family planning services.
Charles Ziraremwa, the acting executive director of Population Secretariat said scaling up family planning services and providing employment to youth would improve their quality of life.
"So many youth today spend most of their time in sports betting and discussing Man-U and Arsenal. The country's planning should be focused on youthful population to realize social-economic progress," he said.
Janet Jackson, UNFPA country representative said Uganda would save up to $118m every year in costs associated with unplanned pregnancies, by scaling up family planning.
She appealed to Government to extend family planning services in rural and hard-to-reach areas, saying it would help reduce the high rate of unsafe abortions.
"Simply put, everyone who wants family planning should have a right to it. The right to family planning and reproductive health is inalienable and states have the obligation to respect them," she stated.
She appealed to the Government to scale up family planning services through budget allocation. She also urged districts to involve young people in the budgeting process, to ensure their concerns are catered for.
The report was launched alongside the State of the World Population 2012 report, which shows that world population grew to 7.06 billion people in 2012, up from 7 billion. It also estimates world population will reach 9 billion by 2050.
The report notes a general decline in birth rates worldwide, but highlights gaps in delivery of family planning services, especially among young people.
The state of Uganda Population report shows a significant reduction in the fertility rate among women of child-bearing age that was noted at 6.2 children, down from 6.7. However, a high unmet need for family planning services was noted at 34% for married women.
Uganda's population grew by at least 1.7 million people in 2012, reaching 34.1 million. At a growth rate of 3.2 % per year, the country's population will reach 54 million in 2025, and 130 million by 2050.
The report compiled by the Population Secretariat with the theme: "Uganda at 50 years, Population and Service Delivery: Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects", puts the female population at 17.4 million, higher than that of males at 16.7 million.
It shows a reduction in infant mortality rate at 54 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 76 in 2006.
The report based on projections made by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), further shows that under-five mortality rate reduced to 90 per 1,000 live births, down from 130 per 1,000 births in 2006.
However, the maternal mortality ratio did not improve but shows a rise from 435 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 438 deaths per l00,000 live births in 2012.
At the ceremony, Vision Group journalists were among scribes who scooped prizes in the 2012 media awards for their coverage of population and development issues.
The winners are Carol Natukunda (New Vision), Deusdedit Ruhangariyo (Orumuri), Godfrey Ojore (Etop Radio), Frank Walusimbi (NTV), Florence Naluyimba (NTV) and Gabriel Adrapi (Radio Pacis). Each of the winners received a plaque and an i-pad.