On the day that marked the world hitting a population of 6 billion, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said the government can’t limit the population growth in Cambodia, which has doubled since 1962.
“We don’t need to educate people about not having a lot of children because they know that already,” Sar Kheng said Tuesday evening. “The government does not have a policy on decreasing or increasing the population.”
Sar Kheng, who is also Co-Minister of Interior, reiterated the need for Cambodia to develop a comprehensive population policy that includes reducing poverty, improving access to education and health care, and giving women an opportunity to be part of the development process.
“Poverty alleviation is a priority for the government and many programs are under way but progress is slow,” he said.
The census conducted last year, which was Cambodia’s first since 1962, showed the country’s population has doubled from 5.7 million to 11.4 million. If the population continues to grow at its present rate, it will double again by the year 2015, Sar Kheng said.
The census also showed a shortage of adult males. More than 25 percent of households were found to be headed by women.
Yoshiko Zenda, representative of the UN Population Fund in Cambodia, said the significant number of households headed by women is a characteristic that is rare in the world.
Zenda also said in creating a population policy, improving the quality of life is more important than controlling population growth.
Hitting a population of 6 billion reflects the progress the world has made, with people living longer, healthier lives.
But the number also shows how quickly the population is growing, raising the problem of how the world can support so many people with its limited resources.
The world’s population reached 2 billion in 1927. It then took less than a lifetime to arrive at 6 billion.
In a morning ceremony, Dr Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health, gave presents to the first baby born after midnight Tuesday at the National Maternal and Child Health Center, who represented Cambodia’s Six Billion Baby.
The baby boy, who weighed 3.8 kg, is the son of 18-year-old Be Lakhena and 29-year-old Meas Tikhea YuVannavuth.
Currently, there are 5.2 children per family in Cambodia and an average of one year between each birth, said Dr Chhun Long, the national reproductive health program manager at the Ministry of Health. The ministry recommends at least two years between births.
The Ministry of Health’s policy is not to control the population growth but to provide counseling about reproductive health and birth spacing, allowing parents to make the choice of how many children they will have, Chhun Long said.
“The Day of Six Billion has been described as a time for choices,” Mam Bun Heng said.
“It is an opportunity to think about the kind of future we can hope for and the choices we need to make to realize our hopes,” he said.