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The Facts




World population is still growing - though at slower rates. Far fewer children are dying in their first five years of life than was the case a generation ago. But the gulf between rich and poor remains vast in this most vital of indicators - life itself.



World population continues to rise by about 87 million people a year – the baby that breaches the six- billion barrier will be born early in 1999.

But these facts mask a hopeful trend – the average annual growth rate in world population has been steadily declining since the early 1960s, from 2.2 per cent down to its current 1.5 per cent. The empowerment and education of women has now been accepted as a key contribution to reducing population growth – but dividing the wealth and resources of the world more fairly would be even more crucial.

Average annual growth rate in world population, 1960-1995

clean water 1975/95

Two decades ago less than half the people of the developing world had access to safe, clean water. Now more than two-thirds have this most fundamental resource.


babies showing child death rates

The country with the world's worst child-mortality rate is Niger. More than three in every ten children born there dies before they are five - exactly the same rate as prevailed in 1960.

The countries with the biggest reductions in child deaths since 1960 are all in Africa or the Middle East.

Deaths of children under five per 1,000 live births, worldwide.

mother & baby drawing

1 World Population Prospects: The 1994 Revision, United Nations 1995.
2 State of the World’s Children 1996. UNICEF 1996.
3 Human Development Report 1996, UNDP.

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New Internationalist issue 287 magazine cover This article is from the January 1997 issue of New Internationalist.
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