(November 2011) PRB senior demographer Carl Haub's series of blog posts have summarized data on reproductive health and maternal and child health from recently released Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for a number of developing countries: Nepal, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Malawi, and Senegal. Haub also reported on new information from Vietnam, Poland, Russia, India, China, and Taiwan.
Ethiopia and Rwanda are showing large declines in the total fertility rate (TFR) of women. Rwanda's progress, Haub wrote, is the sharpest TFR decline in sub-Saharan Africa that he has seen. While infant and child mortality are also declining dramatically in both countries, Ethiopia faces challenges in health care delivery to its large rural population.
In contrast, Burkina Faso, Malawi, and Senegal are experiencing slower fertility declines, but are showing considerable progress in maternal and child health. But Zimbabwe's progress on health seems to have stagnated in recent years: The country is experiencing a fertility increase in addition to an unusual rise in childhood mortality.
South and Southeast Asia
The TFR has been steadily declining in Nepal, according to its 2011 DHS, and appears on track to reaching replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. Although India has not had a recent DHS, its lack of success in slowing down the birth rate has been in the news. The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry in Delhi proposed new incentives for lowering birth rates, largely due to slower progress in northern and central states. Childhood mortality is also lagging behind in progress, a problem that Nepal is also struggling with.
Years of the strict government "one-to-two" children policy in Vietnam have culminated in the country's TFR now being below replacement level. Data from the General Statistics Office in Hanoi indicate that this trend includes rural areas.
China's government has maintained a strict "one-child" policy since 1978. Despite rumors that this policy may be relaxed, the central government denied China's largest province, Guangdong, any policy change in its 12th Five-Year Plan for 2011-2015.
On the opposite end of the population spectrum, Taiwan's TFR of 0.9 children per woman in 2010 was the lowest in the world. But press reports from the country's Ministry of the Interior note that births in the first nine months of 2011 have increased compared with the same period last year.
In Europe, both Poland and Russia have seen reversals in birth rates. A professor from the Warsaw School of Economics speculated to a Polish newspaper that this turndown might have been due to nervousness about the worsening state of jobs and the economy. Although Russia also has a much-reported low birth rate, the country is also experiencing improvement in mortality.
Links to the DHS Surveys (PDFs)