SUCCESS STORY: Praise for Mexico's progress

Posted: 18 May 2004

Mexico has made exemplary progress in the last decade in family planning and educating women in poor communities about their rights to birth control, says the United Nations.

Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), said Mexico was one of the success stories in carrying through programmes agreed at the UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994.

The objectives agreed to in Cairo, include: increasing access to education, especially for girls, gender equality and reduction in infant, child and maternal mortality rates.

Obaid told a meeting about population and development:

"The point worth celebrating is that [Mexican] women are making their own free choices about family size." However, increased life expectancy and advances in the voluntary use of contraceptives were still not enough to offset Mexico's need to cut economic disparities in its population, she said. (According to the UN, 16 per cent of Mexicans are living on less than a dollar a day).

She said Mexico's population would be around 170 million people, instead of just over the current figure of 100 million, if not for the family planning campaigns launched by the government 30 years ago.

The country had 21.9 births per 1 000 people in 2003, compared to 17.7 per 1 000 people in Brazil. However the reduction in the size of Mexican families has been dramatic. The United Nations estimates that the average number of children for Mexican women is now 2.75 instead of 6 in the 1970's.

The UN figures also show that 86 per cent of births are delivered by a skilled attendant, while 66 per cent of couples are using a contraceptve method of some sort. Three-quarters of all girls are entering secondary school (compared with 72 per cent of boys) and 86 per cent of households have access to an improved water supply.

Sources: Reuters, 4th May, 2004 and UNFPA country profile.