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Ghana - Demography

Concern about Ghana's high rate of population growth first arose after the release in late 1961 of the 1960 census total population figure showing that the population had increased by two-thirds since the 1948 census, an average annual rate of increase of 4.2 percent. The Bureau of Census pointed out that some of the increase was from immigration and that the 1948 census was probably defective. The Bureau then erred on the cautious side by assuring the planners that the growth rate was only 2.5 per cent per annurn, although subsequent analyses have shown that it was undoubtedly higher than this.

President Nkrumah believed that the high population growth rate could be accommodated by the economy he was building, but in 1963, in the Seven-Year Development Plan, the Ghanaian planners warned that the high rate of growth would put serious strains on the economy.

The population of Ghana increased from 1970 to 1984 at a rate of growth of 2.6% per annum. The 1988 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS) indicated that the median age at first marriage for women was 16.5 years. Contraceptive use was low. The rapid population growth in Ghana, coupled with the concentration of infrastructural facilities and job opportunities in the urban centers, has resulted in a massive rural-urban migration. Basic social facilities like health, water, housing, and electricity have been stretched to their breakpoints.

By 2010 Ghana's key strategic priorities include prevention of HIV in persons engaged in high-risk behaviors; reducing HIV transmission from key populations to the general population; and providing comprehensive prevention, care, and access to treatment for those infected, their partners, and their families. Nutrition support is also provided in this continuum of care and includes providing therapeutic supplementation for low-BMI patients commencing ART (antiretroviral therapy).

With respect to water, sanitation and hygiene, Ghana‘s environmentally related disease burden is not extraordinary. A large portion of the population has access to improved water facilities (75 percent according to WHO 2004 health statistics). This achievement, coupled with the fact that a large number of households have access to improved sanitation facilities, even if they are shared, may help explain the country‘s performance relative to the continent as a whole when measured either in Disabled-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) or number of deaths. In absolute numbers, conditions related to water, sanitation and hygiene contribute to about 20,000 premature deaths each year in Ghana (among a population of nearly 24 million).

The past rapid growth of Ghana’s population was an outcome of high fertility, which until recently remained fairly constant, and declining mortality. This combination of high fertility and declining mortality is also the cause for the young age structure of the Ghanaian population with 43 percent under 15 years of age.

Fertility in Ghana remained high and fairly constant up until the mid 1980’s; a total fertility rate (TFR) of over 6 children per woman was indicated by various studies in Ghana during the 1960’s to 1980’s. But the 1993 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS) results show that fertility has begun to decline. The survey indicated a TFR of 5.5 children per woman for the 5-year period prior to the survey, compared to 6.4 children in the 1988 GDHS.

In the 1990s the US Bureau of the Census argued that Ghana’s age structure was changing, a consequence of falling fertility. The most important changes were seen as the declining proportion of children and increasing share of the working age group; between 1990 and 2020 the number of children under 15 (now nearly 8 million) was projected to remain virtually constant while the 15 to 64 year age group will nearly double from 9 million to 18 million. There was also projected to be a substantial increase in the elderly population (65 and over), from 549 thousand to over 1 million, but their share of the total population would still be small.

The anticiapted demographic transition seems not to have happened. With the fertility rate averaging about seven children per adult female and expected to fall only to five children per adult female by the year 2000, the population projection of 35 million in 2025 becomes more credible. A number of factors, including improved vaccination against common diseases and nutritional education through village and community health-care systems, contributed to the expanding population. The rise in the nation's population generated a corresponding rise in the demand for schools, health facilities, and urban housing.

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Page last modified: 15-03-2017 18:21:38 ZULU