LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) – The world population will likely an estimated 8 billion people were affected on Tuesday, according to a United Nations forecast, with much of the growth coming from developing countries in Africa.
Among them is Nigeria, where resources are already at the limit. More than 15 million people in Lagos compete for everything from electricity to light their homes to seats on crowded buses, often for two-hour journeys each way, in this sprawling megacity. Some Nigerian children start their journey to school as early as 5 a.m
And over the next three decades, the West African country’s population is expected to grow even further, from 216 million this year to 375 million, the UN says. This puts Nigeria in third place after India and China, level with the United States.
“We are already overstretching what we have – the homes, roads, hospitals, schools. Everything is overloaded,” says Gyang Dalyop, urban planning and development consultant in Nigeria.
The United Nations’ day of 8 billion on Tuesday is more symbolic than precise, as officials point out in a comprehensive report released over the summer that some startling predictions are being made.
The upward trend threatens to leave even more people in developing countries behind as governments struggle to provide enough classrooms and jobs for a rapidly growing youth population and food insecurity becomes an even more pressing issue.
Nigeria is among eight countries that the UN says will account for more than half of world population growth by 2050 – along with other African nations of Congo, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
“The population of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double between 2022 and 2050, putting additional pressure on already strained resources and calling into question policies to reduce poverty and inequalities,” the UN report said.
It predicts that the world population will reach about 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100.
Other countries rounding out the list with the fastest growing populations are Egypt, Pakistan, the Philippines and India, which is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation next year.
In Kinshasa, the capital of Congo, home to more than 12 million people, many families are struggling to find affordable housing and pay school fees. While elementary school students attend the course for free, older children’s opportunities depend on their parents’ income.
“My kids took turns at school,” said Luc Kyungu, a truck driver from Kinshasa who has six children. “Two studied while others waited for the money. If I didn’t have so many children, they would have finished their studies on time.”
Rapid population growth also means more people are vying for scarce water resources and more families are starving as climate change increasingly affects crop production in many parts of the world.
“There is also greater pressure on the environment, increasing food security challenges, which are also being exacerbated by climate change,” said Dr. Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India. “Reducing inequality while focusing on adapting and mitigating climate change should be the focus of our policymakers.”
Still, experts say the greater threat to the environment is consumption This is highest in developed countries that are not experiencing large increases in population.
“Global evidence shows that a small fraction of the world’s population consumes most of the earth’s resources and produces most of its greenhouse gas emissions,” said Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India. “Over the past 25 years, the richest 10% of the world’s population has been responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions.”
According to the UN, sub-Saharan Africa’s population is growing at 2.5% a year – more than three times the global average. Part of this is due to people living longer, but family size remains the driving factor. Women in sub-Saharan Africa have an average of 4.6 births, double the current global average of 2.3.
Families get bigger when women have children early and 4 in 10 girls in Africa marry before they turn 18, according to the UN. The continent’s teenage pregnancy rate is the highest in the world – about half of the children born to mothers under the age of 20 worldwide last year were from sub-Saharan Africa.
Still, any attempt to reduce family size now would come too late to significantly slow growth projections for 2050, the UN said. About two-thirds of these “are driven by the momentum of past growth.”
“Such growth would occur even if the birthrate in today’s high-fertility countries were to drop immediately to about two births per woman,” the report says.
There are also important cultural reasons for large families. In sub-Saharan Africa, children are seen as a blessing and a source of support for the elderly – the more sons and daughters, the greater the comfort of retirement.
Still, “some large families may not have what it takes to really support them,” says Eunice Azimi, a Lagos-based insurance broker and mother of three.
“In Nigeria we believe that it is God who gives children,” she said. “You see it like this, the more children you have, the more benefits. And you actually overtake your peers who can’t have that many kids. It looks like a competition in villages.”
Politics has also played a role in Tanzania, where former President John Magufuli, who ruled the east African country from 2015 until his death in 2021, advised against birth control, saying a large population is good for the economy.
He opposed family planning programs promoted by outside groups and urged women “not to block the ovaries” in a 2019 speech. He even described contraceptive users as “lazy” in a country he says has been awash with cheap food. Under Magufuli, pregnant schoolgirls were even banned from returning to the classroom.
But his successor, Samia Suluhu Hassan, appeared to be reversing government policy in comments last month, saying birth control is necessary to avoid overwhelming the country’s public infrastructure.
Even though populations are increasing sharply in some countries, rates are expected to fall by 1% or more in 61 countries, according to the UN.
The UN report put the current US population at 337 million and will reach 375 million in 2050. The population growth rate in 2021 was only 0.1%, the lowest since the country was founded.
“In the future we will grow more slowly – the question is how slow?” said William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution. “The real joker for the US and many other developed countries is immigration.”
Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, says environmental concerns around the 8 billion mark should focus on consumption, particularly in developed countries.
“The population is not the problem, the way we consume is the problem – let’s change our consumption patterns,” he said.
(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.)
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