World population 'will top 10 billion by 2100'

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The world's population is expected to balloon from 7 billion this year to 9.3 billion in 2050 and to hit 10.1 billion by 2100 as people live longer and fertility rates remain high in poorer countries, United Nations population experts have said in a new report.

"A world of 7 billion is both a challenge and an opportunity," said Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UN Population Fund.

"Globally, people are living longer, healthier lives and choosing to have smaller families. But reducing inequities and finding ways to ensure the well-being of people alive today, as well as the generations that follow, will require new ways of thinking and unprecedented global co-operation."

The UN said in a report on world trends released on Tuesday that global population is expected to hit 6.9 billion in July and 7 billion in October. Most of the increase is expected to take place in the world's "high-fertility countries," especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The UN and its agencies use the projections to devise and fund programmes for problems ranging from climate change to maternal mortality. Hania Zlotnik, the UN Population Division Director, said the projections depend on expected fertility rates, with populations in many nations ageing as medical advances allow people to live longer and families opt to have fewer children.

"The world hasn't collapsed by adding so many people, but most of the people have been added in the poorest countries," Mr Zlotnik noted. "If they don't achieve the lower level of fertility we are projecting they could have serious problems."

The Population Action International group called the projections a "wake-up call" for the international community to meet a global demand for family planning options.