This year’s World Population Day was marked recently. It is an event established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1989 to inspire public interest in Five Billion Day on July 11, 1987, the approximate date on which the world’s population reached five billion people. It aims to increase people’s awareness on various population issues such as the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.. The annual event is observed internationally on July 11 every year, which seeks to raise awareness of global population issues.
From available statistics, it took hundreds of thousands of years for the world population to grow to 1 billion. Curiously in our opinion, in just another 200 years or so, it grew sevenfold. In 2011, the global population reached the seven billion mark, and today, it stands at about 7.7 billion, and it’s expected to grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 10.9 billion in 2100.
This dramatic growth has been driven largely by increasing numbers of people surviving to repro-ductive age, and has been accompanied by major changes in fertility rates, increasing urbanization and accelerating migration. These trends will have far-reaching implications for generations to come.
In addition, the world is seeing high levels of urbanization. By 2050 about 66 per cent of the world population will be living in cities.
These megatrends have far-reaching implications. They affect economic development, employ-ment, income distribution, poverty and social protections. They also affect efforts to ensure uni-versal access to health care, education, housing, sanitation, water, food and energy.
To more sustainably address the needs of individuals, policymakers must understand how many people are living on the planet, where they are, how old they are, and how many people will come after.
This dramatic and exponential rise will take its toll on Africa where more than half of global popula-tion growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur. The continent has the highest rate of population growth among major areas. The population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double by 2050.
A rapid population increase in Africa is anticipated even if there is a substantial reduction of fertility levels in the near future. Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding future trends in fertility in Af-rica, the large number of young people currently on the continent, who will reach adulthood in the coming years and have children of their own, ensures that the region will play a central role in shaping the size and distribution of the world’s population over the coming decades.
In Nigeria, the population is estimated at 200 million and is expected to hit the 400million threshold by the year 2050 most of that crowd in the young and growing group. What that means is that the government needs to put in place infrastructure and other socio-economic policies that will ac-commodate a population that size.
The United Nations Secretary General in a statement to mark the day said the COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone, everywhere, “but it does not affect everyone equally”.
“It is deepening existing inequalities and vulnerabilities, particularly for women and girls.
“With many countries on lockdown and health systems struggling to cope, sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined and gender-based violence is on the rise”.
In the opinion of this newspaper, the UN chief was spot on as reports of rape and domestic vio-lence against women in Nigeria gain ascendancy.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) projects that if lockdown measures con-tinue for six months with major disruptions to health services, 47 million women in low- and mid-dle-income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives. This would result in seven million unintended pregnancies.
Moreover, some 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence can also be expected.
On this World Population Day, let us act to safeguard sexual and reproductive health care, protect the health and rights of women and girls, and end gender-based violence.