The National Population Policy (NPP) 2019-2030, an evidence-based document bridging population dynamics, quality of life and sustainable development, is the focus of a one-day dissemination workshop which was inaugurated, this morning, at Le Voilà Hotel, in Bagatelle. The workshop, organised to mark World Population Day 2020, was attended by the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Kailesh Jagutpal, and the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mrs C. Umutoni.
The theme chosen by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) for World Population Day 2020 is Putting the brakes on COVID-19: how to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now. Emphasis is laid on the vulnerabilities of women and girls in the wake of the ongoing pandemic as well as on the ways to find means to safeguard their sexual and reproductive health.
In his address, Minister Jagutpal recalled that in Mauritius, a lot has been done with regards to sexual and reproductive health. Thus, a constant and consistent drop in maternal mortality and infant mortality has been observed, he indicated.
'Our healthcare system has reinforced itself with better infrastructure, equipment and know-how. All five regional Hospitals in Mauritius are equipped with Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Such facilities give babies born with severe conditions, a better chance at life', he said. The Ministry of Health and Wellness, he also announced, is in the process of further enhancing this service with the setting up of a National Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Victoria Hospital which will cater for a greater number of babies born with little chance of survival.
Speaking about the challenges facing Mauritius as regards demography, Dr Jagutpal highlighted that the country is facing a demographic shift with a declining fertility rate and increasing life expectancy. During the last 25 years, the total fertility rate has steadily decreased to below replacement fertility level of 2.1, that is, the rate required for a population to replace itself, he said.
Furthermore, he stated that in 2019, the population of Mauritius declined for the first time in more than 50 years. If this trend is maintained, our population will fall by more than
200 000 by 2050, he added. The phenomenon of an ageing population is also witnessed by Mauritius as well as lowering fertility trends.
Lauding the NPP, Dr Jagutpal underlined that several challenges have been identified in the policy. These are: enabling better family welfare, promoting an active and healthy lifestyle, instilling a better lifestyle and better eating habits among citizens, and preserving the health of the elderly.
For her part, the UN Resident Coordinator, Mrs C. Umutoni reflected on the Covid-19 crisis which has had a staggering effect on people, communities and economies. She emphasised that women, who account for the largest share of front-line health workers, are disproportionately exposed to the coronavirus. Supply chains around the world are being disrupted, impacting the availability of contraceptives and heightening the risk of unintended pregnancy. As countries are on lockdown and health systems struggle to cope, sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined and gender-based violence is on the rise, she said.
The Covid-19 pandemic, she further highlighted, is having a catastrophic impact on women and girls globally. Extended lockdowns will likely lead to millions more cases of violence in the home, of unintended pregnancies, of child marriages and of female genital mutilation, she cautioned.
The National Population Policy
The NPP has been elaborated to address the multifaceted and interconnected issues arising as a result of the changing demographic landscape. The purpose of the population policy is to promote sustainable development in alignment with the national document, the Vision 2030.
A local multi-sectoral working group was set up by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to work on the NPP, and technical assistance was sought from the UNPF to draft the document. It comprises five chapters, namely population trends, key demographic dynamics and opportunities, population policy vision and purpose, proposed population policy strategies, and implementation strategy and framework.
This policy document comes with a series of recommendations. They include the strengthening of our education system, the elaboration of a comprehensive sexuality education, the strengthening of our health care system, the mitigation of the impacts of climate change, and ensuring environmental sustainability.