The global population is set to cross the 11 billion mark by the year 2100, predicts a United Nations report presented to the American Statistical Association in Seattle by John Wilmoth, the director of the UN Population Division.
The world population is expected to soar to 9.7 billion by the year 2050 from the current 7.3 billion and then shoot to 11.2 billion by 2100 as per the UN report’s forecasts. Some believe these numbers to be very conservative, and the global population could reach the 13 billion mark!
The history of world population growth reads like this: from one billion in 1804, it grew to two billion in 123 years; however it took a mere 12 years to expand to seven billion in 1999 from six billion in 1987! This implies that global population is increasing at very fast rates. The primary factors contributing to these explosions in the global population are increased longevity and decreased child mortality, claims John Wilmoth. While these factors are signs of human success in the field of health and science, the question that is being asked is “Are we ready for this population surge?”
The greatest demand created by the population explosion is to be in the healthcare segment. A WHO report in 2006 estimated that 2.3 midwives, nurses, and doctors are needed for every 1,000 living humans. Extrapolating this figure to the year 2050, about 22 million health care specialists would be needed to manage the health of the expected population of 9.7 billion then.
Another disturbing factor in the report is that the rise in population is expected to be far more in poorer geographies, especially Africa. For example, as per Director John Wilmoth, the population of Nigeria is projected to reach 439 million by 2100, almost two and half times its present figure. The report warns that half the world population by 2100 would be Africans. Africa’s expansion in population is attributed to persistently high fertility levels. Africa’s fertility level is at 4.7 children per woman as against the global average of 2.5 children.
Although the total fertility rate (TFR) in the region is on the decline, it is only a quarter of that in Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean in the 1970s! Moreover, in some regions the TFR seems to have stagnated. Already plagued by resource shortages, these situations make it more challenging for the countries in that region to handle associated issues such as eradication of poverty and inequality, management of malnutrition and hunger and delivery of improved education and health systems.
Africa would be the biggest contributor to world population and is expected to continue to do so even if the TFRs fall significantly in the region. What is needed is an unprecedented decline in fertility rates in Africa; else, this imminent explosion of the world population cannot be stopped and impending dangers cannot be thwarted or averted, the report cautions.