July 11 is World Population Day, an annual event dedicated to raising awareness of issues surrounding the growing population, whose total reached 8 billion last year.
A leading humanitarian aid and global health expert warns that the staggering rate of population growth is causing a strain on countries’ health systems, with disastrous consequences.
“More should be done to safeguard individuals in vulnerable parts of the world. Their health systems are simply not equipped to cope with the burden of such a rapidly growing population,” says Shameet Thakkar, founder and managing director of Unimed Procurement Services, an organization contributing to international development by increasing access to healthcare commodities.
According to the UN, most of the fastest-growing populations are in the group of Least Developed Countries, encompassing entire communities that just won’t have the opportunity to live a life filled with the same rights and choices as others in the world.
“The world’s population is increasing at a staggering rate, and this has placed a significant burden on healthcare, with vulnerable groups of individuals being most at risk.
“Population aging is certainly a cause for concern due to older individuals requiring care more often – and there is already a widespread awareness of this issue.
"However, maternal and newborn health is a relatively new focus area. In developing countries, newborns often don’t survive due to malnutrition and complications that could easily be prevented with access to the right healthcare facilities and resources.
“What some may perceive as small issues during pregnancy or childbirth, such as iron deficiencies or an abnormal heart rate, can mean the difference between life and death, or a healthy baby being born, if not properly addressed. But many pregnant women simply don’t have that option.
“The challenges we face are harder than ever, even when compared to just five or ten years ago. Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for care was outstripping capacity. And health systems in developing countries are yet to recover.
“It all goes back to the need to build stronger health systems. If we are to create a resilient future where everyone has access to the same level of healthcare regardless of where they live, then increasing our efforts to this end should be a priority.
“Resilience in healthcare is multifaceted. It means having the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, handling crisis response, but also providing quality routine care.
“The WHO maintains that in order to create stronger health systems, governments should invest in essential public health functions, address pre-existing inequities and promote environments for innovation and learning.
“But this is no easy feat. The burden of a growing population will naturally make it more difficult for governments in developing countries to make investments and resolve structural challenges.
“Some developing nations are effectively locked in a race against time, which they must be supported in winning.
“Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits all answer. Shaping a brighter future in healthcare is a long, complex process that may require reliance on external resources, too, with countries who are better positioned doing their part to help wherever possible.”