Asia-Pacific Population Journal Paints Mixed Picture of Pacific Sub-region

With a total population of about 34 million and very diverse levels of fertility – from 1.2 children per woman in the Northern Mariana Islands to 4.6 in Samoa – the Pacific sub-region needs to redouble its efforts to tackle crucial issues such as maternal mortality, low contraceptive prevalence rate and teenage fertility in the pursuit of its Millennium Development Goals (MDG), according to an article published in the latest issue of the Asia-Pacific Population Journal.

In a range of articles in its December 2007 issue, the Journal unveils a complex and contrasting picture of the vast sub-region, which faces numerous challenges on its path to achieving sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development. Its release coincides with two high-profile UN-led meetings that are about to be held in New Caledonia, under the overall theme of “Promoting Asia-Pacific Linkages through Regional Cooperation.”

The Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands have among the highest teenage fertility rates in the world, warns one of the articles. It says that “this is particularly worrisome as approximately 60 per cent of the population is aged less than 25 in these countries and evidence is emerging that unsafe sexual behaviour among young people is highly prevalent.”

HIV/AIDS, already a generalized epidemic in Papua New Guinea – the focus of the first article published in this volume – also appears as a looming threat in those Pacific island countries where levels of unprotected sex is high in the communities. “It is probable that some Pacific countries will not achieve their MDG targets unless concerted national efforts to promote sexual and reproductive health are made,” the article says.

Rising levels of poverty, inequality and youth unemployment seem to compound the picture, as described in yet another article published in this special issue.

Prepared in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund team in Suva, the recently released December issue of the Asia-Pacific Population Journal includes five articles contributed by prominent population experts from the Pacific and addresses a variety of issues, from HIV/AIDS to sexual and reproductive health, poverty and pro-poor policies to issues of quality, availability, accessibility and utilization of data in this part of the world.

In print since 1986, the peer-reviewed Asia-Pacific Population Journal publishes evidence-based and forward-looking articles on population and development issues affecting the region, relevant for population policies and programmes in Asia and the Pacific. It is available online at www.unescap.org/appj.asp with fully searchable archives.