August 29, 2003

Life expectancy slumps

A newborn baby girl in Namibia can expect to live only to age 50, while the life expectancy for a male is even less - 48 years. These alarming statistics were included in the final national report on the 2001 Population and Housing Census which was released in Windhoek yesterday.

Although the census does not give any direct reasons for its findings, the Director General of the National Planning Commission (NPC), Immanuel Ngatjizeko, alluded that the decline in life expectancy since the census in 1991 (63 years for females and 59 years for males) could be as a result of HIV-AIDS.

While there has been an improvement in infant and child mortality rates since figures were last determined, Ngatjizeko said these are still too high and need to be improved on. Latest figures indicate that for every 1000 live births, 52 infants die, while 71 out of every 1000 children do not live past the age of five. "Remember that the census indicators do not provide us with direct reasons for any changes between 1991 and 2001. We still need to complement these results with other studies in order for us to understand the underlying situations and come up with programmes of intervention," said Ngatjizeko at the launch of the final report.

Preliminary findings based on manual calculations were released in February last year. Slight differences - attributed to the manual tabulations - are now apparent between provisional figures and those in the final document. As a result there is a slight increase in Namibia's total population figure which is now said to stand at 1 830 330. The last decade has seen the population grow at a slower rate than between 1981 and 1991. The population growth rate is now 2,6 per cent as compared to 3,1 per cent previously. While the population consists of less young people below 15 years (39 per cent) than previously (42 per cent), the proportion of senior citizens (those aged above 60) has remained unchanged at 7 per cent of the total population.

The NPC head has also bemoaned the unchanged situation in school enrolments since 1991. National figures show that just over 80 per cent of school-going children aged 6 to 15 years are actually in school. "We must do something about this. When are we going to achieve 100 per cent school enrolment?" he asked.

As from next week the national report will be disseminated and workshopped around the country. This is being done in the hope that it will contribute to the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of development programmes. The distribution of 13 individual reports containing the statistics specific to each region is also in the pipeline, with the one for Caprivi already completed. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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