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EAST NEW BRITAIN, Papua New Guinea (February 21, 2000 – The National)---East New Britain has the highest rate of population growth in the country, a concern that has prompted authorities to look for ways to put the brakes on it.

The annual population growth rate for the province is 3.3 per cent, according to health officials, who hope to develop a provincial policy soon to control the birth rate and limit family sizes to 1 or 2 children.

Provincial health chairman John Topeono said they hoped to encourage new families, especially in the Gazelle Peninsular, to limit the number of children.

Mr. Topeono told the provincial assembly last week that having a large family is not a necessity anymore.

He was responding to concerns raised by Kokopo mayor Onias Tomano.

Mr. Tomano expressed concern that the population explosion was causing land pressures and clogging schools and health service facilities.

He urged the provincial government to develop a policy quickly to control population growth before the problems got out of hand.

Mr. Tomano said women were always targeted for family planning measures, but men should also be encouraged to use contraceptives, including condoms.

In response, Mr. Topeono said the health division was in the process of developing a policy to control population growth.

He said the health division was seeking help from the World Health Organization and other organizations to develop a formal policy on birth control.

He said rural communities were already conscious of pressures resulting from population explosion, and were talking about ways to control it.

He said, as an example, people on Watam Island recently held a seminar to discuss the issue and take measures to control population growth.

Meanwhile, councilor of Raburua ward in the Raluana local level government, Norman Lasiel, said the population explosion was a problem in his ward with 35 to 40 children born every year.

Mr. Lasiel said it was like producing one more school class a year.

He supported strongly any investment to bring down birth rates.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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