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UN Warns of More Hardships For the Poor As Global Population Hits 8 Billion

The global population has reached 8 billion yesterday 15 November 2022 according to projections by UN Population Fund (UNFPA). India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023, according to World Population Prospects 2022.

The “Day of 8 billion” according to UNFPA presents a vital opportunity to catalyze an informed conversation around population dynamics, and sexual reproductive health issues and to ensure rights and choices for all. 

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres warned of more hardship for regions already facing resource scarcity because of climate change. “Billions of people are struggling; hundreds of millions are facing hunger and even famine. Record numbers are on the move seeking opportunities and relief from debt and hardship, wars and climate disasters,” said Guterres.

According to Guterres, unless leaders bridge the yawning chasm between the global haves and have-nots, we are setting ourselves up for an 8-billion-strong world filled with tensions and mistrust, crisis and conflict. “The facts speak for themselves. A handful of billionaires control as much wealth as the poorest half of the world. The top one percent globally pocket one-fifth of the world’s income, while people in the richest countries can expect to live up to 30 years longer than those in the poorest,” said Guterres.

 He warned that as the world has grown richer and healthier in recent decades, these inequalities have grown too.  The latest UN projections indicate that the world’s population could grow to about 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050. 

In Uganda, a symbolic event was held at Naguru hospital as officials from the Ministry of Health and UNFPA country office witnessed the birth of a baby. The baby born on the afternoon of November 15 was part of the World at 8 billion people. 

Daniel Alemu, the in-charge Naguru Hospital said “As we commemorate this day with the 8 Billionth baby born in Uganda, I urge each couple to give birth to the children they can take care of. This day is also an indicator to the country to prioritize Sexual Reproductive Health in the health sector.”

While the Day of 8 Billion represents a success story for humanity, it also raises concerns about links between population growth, poverty, climate change, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The relationship between population growth and sustainable development is complex.

Rapid population growth makes eradicating poverty, combating hunger and malnutrition, and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult. 

Experts say achieving the SDGs, especially those related to health, education, and gender equality, will contribute to slowing global population growth. They suggest that if slower population growth is maintained over several decades, it could help to mitigate environmental degradation.

 One of the major concerns is that majority of the world’s population growth is concentrated among the poorest countries, which have significantly lower emissions rates but are likely to suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change.

“We must accelerate our efforts to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement as well as achieve the SDGs,” said Li Junhua, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. 

“We need a rapid decoupling of economic activity from the current over-reliance on fossil-fuel energy, as well as greater efficiency in the use of those resources, and we need to make this a just and inclusive transition that supports those left furthest behind,” said Li Junhua.

The World at 8 billion people comes as leaders meet at the International Conference on Family Planning taking place in Thailand between 14-17 November 2022.   

The conference which comes Ten years after the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning is expected to look at progress toward sexual reproductive Health Rights around the world so far.

 According to some activists at the conference, the world is facing another pivotal moment for reproductive health and rights. 

“In many parts of the world, in particular across sub-Saharan Africa, governments have overcome significant obstacles to deliver reproductive health services against significant odds, yet the future remains uncertain as gender equality and reproductive health and rights come under attack,” said Dr. Samukeliso Dube, Executive Director FP2030.

At the same time, there is cause for hope. According to new research to be released on Wednesday, an unprecedented number of women are using a modern method of family planning, tens of millions more than just a decade ago. 

The report focuses in particular on African nations, suggesting that an unprecedented number of governments, corporations, funders, and non-governmental organizations are pledging to take specific actions to expand access to voluntary, rights-based contraception in their communities.  

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