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Birth Rates Rise in Poor Countries

Associated Press - Thursday, August 15, 2002
Harry Dunphy, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON -- The global economic slowdown is making it more difficult for poor countries to maintain family planning programs aimed at reducing their high birth rates, said a study being released Thursday.

The finding was included in the annual report on global population trends by the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit group that analyzes demographic trends.

Carl Haub, who prepared the "2002 World Population Data Sheet," said that in poor nations with high fertility rates, women typically bear four or more children in their lifetimes, compared with one or two in industrialized countries. The trend is most noticeable in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The relationship between poverty and fertility is hardly a surprise," Haub wrote. "But it is taking on added importance with the increasing cost of maintaining national family planning programs in a time of world economic slowdown."

He said that if poor nations are to achieve lower birth rates, they must train more health workers, increase purchase of contraceptives and improve infrastructures so their economies can grow.

Last month, the Bush administration decided to withhold $34 million that had been earmarked for United Nations family planning activities. The State Department said some of the funds would have gone to "Chinese agencies that carry out coercive programs" such as abortions and forced sterilizations.

Instead, officials said, the money will go to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which funds family planning initiatives in dozens of countries.

As it did last year, the data sheet noted that almost 99 percent of population growth occurs in the developing world, while in Europe there are fewer births than deaths each year.

"From 2002 to 2050, the more developed countries are projected to go from 1.197 billion to 1.249 billion, an increase of just 52 million people," the study said. "Over the same period, the population of the less developed world will jump from 5.018 billion to 7.873 billion, an increase of more than 2.8 billion."

Other highlights of the data sheet:

-HIV/AIDS reached unprecedented proportions in southern Africa. In Botswana, 38.8 percent of adults are infected. AIDS has resulted in some population decline in some African countries, although the region continues to lead the world in projected growth.

-The United States remains the fastest growing industrialized country due to a higher birth rate, 2.1 children per woman, and to immigration.

-Countries facing the largest population losses between now and 2050 include Botswana, Bulgaria, Estonia, Japan, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine.

-Countries projected to have the largest population increases include Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Niger, Palestinian territory, Uganda and Yemen.


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