Was it Danica? Nargis? Or maybe Pyotr? Birth pushes population past 7 billion

UN marks landmark day by designating several newborns across the globe with symbolic status
  • @_richardhall

At two minutes before midnight on Sunday evening, the world's seven billionth living human being was born into a working-class family in Manila amid flashes of camera bulbs and the excited murmur of government officials.

Hours later, in a small village in India's Uttar Pradesh state, another baby named Nargis was held aloft before she too was declared the world's seven billionth inhabitant. In Russia, two babies born at opposite ends of the country were yesterday vying for the special status before the government bestowed it upon baby Pyotr from Kaliningrad.

Should the parents decide to wage it, the battle to be named the world's seven billionth may be a long one. While the millions of births and deaths around the world each day make it impossible to pinpoint the exact baby, the UN chose yesterday to mark the day by designating a number of newborns with the symbolic status.

Danica was the first, arriving at Manila's Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital at two minutes before midnight on Sunday – but doctors say that was close enough to count for a Monday birth.

"She looks so lovely," her mother, Camille Galura, whispered as she cradled the 5lb 8oz baby, who was born about a month premature.

Whether Danica and the other seven billionth babies will share a unique bond or a lifelong rivalry remains to be seen. But the milestone has raised concerns about how the planet will cope with a rapidly increasing population.

Dr Eric Tayag, of the Philippine Department of Health, said the birth came with a warning. "Seven billion is a number we should think about deeply. We should really focus on the question of whether there will be food, clean water, shelter, education and a decent life for every child," he said. "If the answer is 'no,' it would be better for people to look at easing this population explosion."

In India, where 51 babies are born every minute, authorities chose Nargis as its seven billionth baby to draw attention to the country's deeply held preference for sons and a skewed sex ratio because of millions of aborted female foetuses.

Nargis was born in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest regions in India. Her parents, villagers who earn just over £62 a month, say they want her to go to school and be successful in life, but aid workers say this will be an uphill struggle, not only for her but others like her in the developing world. "The child will face a lot of challenges," said Sona Sharma, director for advocacy and communications at the Population Foundation of India. "Getting proper nutritional food, clean drinking water and even basics such as medical care such as immunisations to help her survive the first few years will be challenging."

The UN estimates that the world's population will reach 8 billion by 2025 and 10 billion by 2083. But the numbers could vary widely, depending on everything from life expectancy to birth control use and infant mortality rates.

To feed the growing population, food production will have to increase by 70 per cent, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation says. But climate change may be the greatest impediment to meeting this target.