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WORLDWIDE — In October 2011, the global population reaches 7 billion. Every year, it grows by a further 78 million. While people are living longer and leading healthier lives, and many couples are having fewer children, great inequities exist. 

The global trend points to poverty reduction – yet there are wide gaps between and within countries. The poorest countries are challenged by extreme poverty, food insecurity, inequality, high death rates and high birth rates, which are linked in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Nearly all of the world’s population growth – 97 of every 100 people – occurs in less developed countries, some of which already struggle to meet their people’s needs. And the populations of the poorest countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are expected to double in the next 40 years. The population of Africa, the fastest growing continent, reached one billion in 2010.

The challenge facing Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa in particular is growing rapidly and it faces serious political, economic and social challenges: at present it's population is a fifth of Asia’s but by 2050 it may be as much as three-quarters . On average, Africans are 22 per cent poorer than they were in the mid 1970s due to 20 years of an almost 3 per cent annual population growth, which has outpaced economic gains made.

Why we need to be concerned 

Many countries are unable to provide adequately for their populations. The gap between rich and poor is growing. And more people than ever are vulnerable to food insecurity, water shortages, and weather-related disasters.

Meanwhile, many rich and middle-income countries are concerned about low fertility, declining populations and ageing. Whether we can live together on a healthy planet will depend on the decisions we make now.  

A world of 7 billion has implications for sustainability, urbanisation, access to health services and youth empowerment. It is a challenge – and also an opportunity to renew global commitment for a healthy and sustainable world.  

We urge you to take action 

7 Billion Actions, a global movement for all humanity, was established by the United Nations Population Fund to highlight positive action by individuals and organisations, and to inspire others to join the movement.