Family planning in the South Pacific

Asian Pac Popul Programme News. 1985 Jun;14(2):32-4.


PIP: This document provides excerpts from a speech on family planning in the South Pacific made by Francis Bugotu, the Secretary General of the South Pacific Commission, at the 2nd National Conference of the Australian Population Association in December, 1984. Mr. Bugotu argued that the most appropriate way to control population growth in the South Pacific Island is to promote responsible parenthood through education and the strengthening of indigenous traditions and values rather than through the intervention of nationally and internationally sponsored family planning programs. The population growth rate of the South Pacific Islands is 2.1%annum. There is considerable variation in growth rates, as well as in birth rates, in Pacific Island countries. Current birth rates range from 18 in Samoa to 45 in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. Recently, fertility levels began to fall in many of the countries. The decline is most clearly evidenced in Polynesian countries. In Melanesian countries, fertility rates remained constant in recent years. Death rates, which are largely a function of the population age structure, range from 4 in Guam and Fiji to 15 in Papua New Guinea. Death rates have been declining in most of the countries for several decades. Infant mortality ranges from 111 in Papua New Guinea to 16 in American Samoa. Declines in infant mortality were observed in many South Pacific countries in recent years. Life expectancy ranges from 50 in Papua New Guinea to 67 in American Samoa and the Cook Islands. Poverty is frequently attributed to rapid population growth; however, the major cause of poverty is a lack of educaction. Literacy and education encourages individuals to plan for the futuer and to be responsible parents. Neither urbanization nor emigration is an acceptable solution to population growth. Urbanization requires the creation of job opportunities, which in turn require the importation of capital. In the end, countries lose control over their own economies. Emigration could effectively stem population growth only if large numbers of people were involved. Furthermore, it is usually the most educated members of a society who emigrate; therefore, emigration results in the loss of needed valuable human resources. In the past, Pacific Island populations succeeded in keeping population size in balance with available natural resources. Many of the cultural institutions which limited population growth in the past have undergone change and some have disappeared. Research is needed to determine how traditional methods can be revived and strenghtened. Instead of instituting activist family planning interventions an effort should be made to gradually introduce culturally sensitive family planning in the context of maternal and child care servcies. Indigenous birth spacing practices should be strenghtened and, if necessary, combined with modern methods. This will ensure that mothers derive the health benefits associated with longer birth intervals while allowing couples to have enough children to ensure their own social position and te social position of their broader kin group. In conclusion, the solution to the population growth problem is to strenghten traditional institutions and to accept help from the outside only when that help is in accordance with the values and goals of the South Pacific Islanders.

MeSH terms

  • Culture*
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Demography*
  • Developing Countries
  • Family Planning Services*
  • Health
  • Health Planning*
  • Health Services*
  • Melanesia
  • Pacific Islands
  • Population
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Population Growth*