The United Nations is predicting that come Oct. 31, the world population will hit the seven billion mark - and keep expanding till it reaches 9.3 billion by the year 2050.
Much of this increase, according to the Population Division of the U.N.'s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), is projected to come from 58 high-fertility countries: 39 in Africa, nine in Asia, six in Oceania and four in Latin America.
These countries include some of the poorest of the world's poor: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Mali, Ethiopia, and East Timor, along with middle income countries such as Jordan, Pakistan, Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines.
The projections were part of the "2010 Revision of World Population Prospects" released Tuesday by DESA.
"A world of seven billion people is both a challenge and an opportunity," says Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).
In particular, he said, the population projections underscore the urgent need to provide safe and effective family planning to the 215 million women who lack it.
"Small variations in fertility when multiplied across countries and over time make a world of difference," he noted.
"We must invest the resources to enable women and men to have the means to exercise their human right to determine the number and spacing of their children," he added.
But according to a study released by the United Nations last month, the global financial crisis has impacted heavily on resources needed for population programmes worldwide, specifically in reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health, including family planning.
Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International, said, "The new projections are a wake-up call for governments to fulfill the global demand for contraception."
"As we approach this numerical milestone of seven billion", she said, "it's important to think about the individuals contained within it."
Each one will have varying options that determine whether seven billion becomes nine billion or more than 11 billion by 2050, she added.
According to the United Nations, one of the most urgent needs is to close a 24-billion-dollar gap to finance programmes to meet the needs of some 1.8 billion young people and 1.8 billion women of child- bearing age globally.
"Investing in the health and rights of women and young people is not an expenditure, it is an investment in our future," Dr. Osotimehin told IPS.
He said far too many people continue to face discrimination, coercion and violence in making decisions about reproduction. Some 215 million women in developing countries, who want to plan and space their births, do not have access to modern contraception, he added.
Each year, he said, neglect of sexual and reproductive health results in an estimated 80 million unintended pregnancies; 22 million unsafe abortions; and 358,000 deaths from maternal causes, including 47,000 deaths from unsafe abortion.
The U.N. estimates also reveal that countries as varied as China, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Viet Nam, Germany, Iran, Thailand and France - in order of population size - account for 75 percent of the population living in low-fertility countries.
Three-quarters of the population living in the intermediate-fertility countries is located in India, the United States, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mexico and Egypt.
Pakistan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ghana, Yemen, Mozambique and Madagascar - in order of population size - account for 75 percent of the population of high-fertility countries.
Meanwhile, DESA estimates also show that population ageing is slowest among high-fertility countries, which have still a very young population.
In 2010, 62 percent of their population was under age 25 and that proportion is projected to decline markedly to 48 percent in 2050 and 35 percent in 2100.
At the same time, the proportion aged 65 or over is projected to rise from just over three percent in 2010 to six percent in 2050 and to 16 percent in 2100.
Source: Thalif Deen, Interpress, 3 May 2011