Population growing faster than expected says UN

Posted: 28 February 2005

New United Nations projections of the world's population show that the number of people in the world is now expected to rise by 2.6 billion, from today's 6.5 billion to 9.1 billion in 2050. This is 200 million more than the previous 2002 projection of 8.9 billion in 2050.

Commenting on the report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said the new projections should spur more urgent action to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and help more women and men determine freely the size of their families.

According to the 2004 projections by the UN Population Division , released last week, almost all growth will take place in developing regions, where population is expected to rise from today's 5.3 billion to 7.8 billion. By contrast, developed countries' population will remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion.

Future population growth depends on the future path of fertility, the UN says, echoing a recent report by the UN Secretary-General, stressing that projections were "contingent on ensuring that couples have access to family planning and that efforts to arrest the current spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic are successful in reducing its growth momentum."

Women's rights

"We must take more urgent action to promote access to reproductive health, including family planning, and fight HIV/AIDS to save millions of lives from AIDS and maternal death, as well as to reduce poverty in developing countries," said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA's Executive Director.

"As the world reviews the Beijing women's conference next week, we must promote women's rights to protect their welfare and health, especially reproductive health. Too many of our sisters in developing countries are lost to their families and societies due to maternal death. We must do better to empower women to help eliminate poverty and promote prosperity."

The population of the 50 least developed countries is projected to more than double, passing from 0.8 billion in 2005 to 1.7 billion in 2050, World Population Prospects reports. Growth in the rest of the developing world is also projected to be robust, it adds.

"Developing countries suffer most of the world's deaths from AIDS and lose most of the half million women who die each year from childbirth-related causes," said Ms. Obaid.

"It is vital for all donors to invest the amounts they have pledged to tackle these problems in the poor countries that lack the resources to do so."

Bishop's anger

The continued resistance to such measures in some parts of the world is highighted by a new statement from the Roman Catholic Bishops in the Philippines. This condemns President Gloria Arroyo's family planning programme, saying it "desecrates the sanctity of marriage and family life."

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines stated that the government's "Freedom from Pregnancy" programme, which informs couples of birth control options, "violates and mocks the privacy and autonomy of couples and families."

The Bishops urged Catholic health workers not to support the family planning programme, emphasising that the only birth control measures approved by the church were so-called "natural family planning."

Arroyo, a devout Catholic, has been careful to avoid angering the Church which disallows the use of artificial contraceptives. Her government's population programme does not actively press couples to use contraceptive devices but merely makes them available as options.

Business groups, international lenders and economists have warned that the current population growth rate of 2.3 per cent, one of the highest in the world, poses a major risk to the nation's development. Sources: UNFPA, IPPF and AFP

Related links:

UNFPA

UN Population Division