Happy 7 billionth birthday?

The UN has named October 31st as 7 BILLION DAY. It’s the day when the birth of a child to someone, somewhere on earth, will tip the world’s population to over 7,000,000,000. Imagine 28,592 people standing on every single square kilometre of the entire land mass of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. That’s 7bn people. 

But the real story of 7 BILLION DAY isn’t in the headline figure. It’s in the disparities and inequalities which underpin population growth. World population is growing at a rate of 78m per year. Nearly all of that growth - 97% - is taking place in less developed countries.

Stastistics may be dull, but just for a moment, here are a few relating to the developed v. the less developed world. Consider the UK v the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Those living below the international poverty line: UK 0%, DRC 65%. Doctors per 100,000 people: UK 230, DRC 11. Fertility: UK 1.9, DRC 6.4 children per woman. Percentage of children who die before the age of five: UK 0.3%, DRC 21.9%.

In the less developed world, people fight to subsist, governments struggle to provide healthcare, sexual and reproductive health services may be next to non-existent , the proportion of women of child-bearing age is high, more children are born, and more people create a greater strain on resources. So the relentless cycle continues.

Every major agency with an interest in breaking the cycle understands that the fundamental building block is ensuring that women and young people have the support, information and education to access sexual and reproductive health services and supplies, free from fear, coercion, violence, stigma and prejudice. That they have absolute freedom to control their sexual and reproductive health, as a basic human right. In the words of Nafis Sadik, former head of the United Nations Population Fund, “It is the freedom from which all other freedoms flow”.

IPPF and its member associations are dedicated to empowering people to recognise and exercise this freedom, so that each and every one of the 7 billion people who now occupy this planet (as IPPF Director General Tewodros Melesse has said), “Can have a life of hope, lived with dignity, respect and meaning”.

If current trends continue, 9 BILLION DAY will occur in June 2050. If none of those 9 billion live in poverty, it’ll be something to celebrate. If not, is it a milestone we really want to reach? One final question: what’s your reading rate? If it’s around the national average, since you started reading this story, 480 more babies have been born.