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Seven billionth human boosts inequality and resources debate

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Reuters

The world’s population topped seven billion Monday, sparking debate as to whether there are too many people or whether wealth is too poorly distributed and the earth’s resources abused.


The Philippines was the first country to declare a seven billionth baby - a little girl called Danica May Camacho.

Several countries have chosen their official seven billionth child but the UN has refrained from doing so.

  • Two babies are born every second;
  • World population is expected to hit 10 billon by 2100;
  • Africa’s population hit one billion in 2009 and reach two billion by 2044;
  • India’s population total is expected to overtake China’s by 2025 at nearly 1.5 billion;
  • The Tokyo agglomeration’s population is 36.7 million.

In 1999 it named Bosnian Adnan Mevic as the earth’s six billionth child and then-secretary general Kofi Annan was pictured in a Sarajevo hospital cradling the baby in his arms.

The Mevic now lives in poverty in the Bosnian capital, which is one of the reasons for this year’s decision.

Current UN chief Ban Ki-Moon declared that the population milestone should be a “clarion call for action” on inequality.

Plenty of food, but still a billion people going to bed hungry every night. Many people enjoy luxurious lifestyles, but still many people are impoverished," he said in an interview with Time magazine.

And in a latter to G20 ministers, who meet in Paris on 3-4 November, he warned, "The gathering force of public protest is the popular expression of an obvious fact: that growing economic uncertainty, market volatility and mounting inequality have reached a point of crisis."

Zambia is throwing a seven billion song contest; Vietnam is staging a "7B: Counting On Each Other" concert; Russian authorities are showering gifts on selected newborns; Côte d’Ivoire is putting on a comedy show and Papua New Guinea is handing out goody bags for new mothers.

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But Indian Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the birth of the seven billionth child was "not a matter of joy but a great worry".

"We shouldn't be celebrating the birth of the seventh billionth child ... For us a matter of joy will be when the population stabilises," he said Sunday in an interview with The Times of India.

India has the world’s second largest population at 1.2 billion.

The continent with the fastest population growth is Africa at 2.3 per cent per year, double that of Asia.

"Subsaharan Africa is the only region where the population should double or triple over the next 40 years," British reproduction expert John Cleland told RFI. 

Africa's population density is four times lower than Europe's, although unequally shared, and its share of the world's people, at 15 per cent, is roughly the same as it was before the slave trade. 

A UN Population Fund (UNFPA) report predicts growing problems finding jobs for young people, especially in poor countries, worsening drought and famine crises and urban sprawl in megacities.

"This is not a matter of space. It's a matter of equity, opportunity and social justice," said UNFPA executive director Babatunde Osotimehin.

The 10 most populated countries
RFI/Anthony Terrade

World population by continents
RFI/Anthony Terrade