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World population doubles in less than 50 years - sub-Saharan Africa has highest birthrate and deepest poverty

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earthTHE people of some of Africa's most deprived nations are suffering the double burden of the world's highest birthrates and deepest poverty, according to new UN figures.

The world's population is due to reach 7 billion on Oct 31, according to the UN Population Fund – and 2 billion of these could be in poverty-riven areas in Africa in a few decades time.

In 1974 the world's population stood at just four billion.

The world's population didn't reach 1 billion until 1804, and it took 123 years to hit the 2 billion mark in 1927. Then the pace accelerated - 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1998.

In Western Europe, Japan and Russia, the milestone comes amid worries about low birthrates and aging populations. In China and India, the two most populous nations, it's an occasion to reassess policies that have already slowed once-rapid growth.

But sub-Saharan Africa faces double burden of the world's highest birthrates and deepest poverty. The regional population of nearly 900 million could reach 2 billion in 40 years at current rates, accounting for about half of the projected global population growth over that span.

John Bongaarts of the Population Council, a New York-based research organisation said: “Most of that growth will be in Africa's cities, and in those cities it will almost all be in slums where living conditions are horrible.

Experts say most of Africa - and other high-growth developing nations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan - will be hard-pressed to furnish enough food, water and jobs for their people, especially without major new family-planning initiatives.

The International Water Management Institute has predicted that by 2025 about 1.8 billion people will live in places suffering from severe water scarcity.

The UN projects that the world population will reach 8 billion by 2025, 10 billion by 2083.

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