In the Philippines, newborn Danica May Camacho was greeted with cheers and an explosion of photographers’ flashbulbs at Manila’s Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital. She arrived two minutes before midnight Sunday at 5 pounds, 8 ounces and was declared by the United Nations to be the world’s 7 billionth citizen.
However, other countries around the world marked the world’s population reaching 7 billion Monday, proclaiming their newborn infants had earned the milestone.
In Uttar Pradesh, India — the most populous state in the world’s second-most populous country — officials said seven girls born Monday there would symbolize the 7 billion mark for that nation. The Associated Press interviewed new mothers in Nigeria and South Africa — noting that either could claim the title for their newborn.
In Russia, the Moscow News announced that a Russian newborn had won the honor — and claimed that the UN had selected him. “Even though Sasha from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky was born nearly nine hours earlier, Petya from Kaliningrad, Russia’s most western region, received a certificate from the United Nations Population Fund confirming his status,” reported News reporter Alina Lobzina. “The special certificate was to be given to the first baby who would be born on Oct. 31, the UN decided, but since it’s impossible to find out precisely who it will be, this is more like a symbolic gesture.”
According to UK-based charity Plan International, a girl called Nargis born in a small village in Indian Uttar Pradesh should have been given this title.
In the Philippines, baby Danica received a shower of gifts, including a chocolate cake marked “7B Philippines” and a gift certificate for shoes.
“She looks so lovely,” her mother, Camille Galura, whispered as she cradled the infant, who was born about a month premature, the second child for Galura and her partner, Florante Camacho, a struggling driver who supports the family on a tiny salary.
Dr. Eric Tayag of the Philippines’ Department of Health said the birth came with a warning. “Seven billion is a number we should think about deeply,” he told reporters. “We should really focus on the question of whether there will be food, clean water, shelter, education and a decent life for every child. If the answer is ‘no,’ it would be better for people to look at easing this population explosion.”
Demographer Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University echoed that concern in an interview with CBS News correspondent Russ Mitchell, warning that rapid population growth, “makes almost every other problem more difficult to solve. If we could slow our growth rate, we have an easier job in dealing with all the other things like education, health, employment, housing, food, the environment and so on.”
Dudley Poston, a professor of sociology and demographics at Texas A&M University, noted that it took the world until the year 1800 to produce a billion residents. In those days, birth rates were much higher, but so were infant mortality and disease rates. But since then, scientific progress has allowed more and more of those babies to live a longer and healthier life, which resulted in the human population reaching two billion by 1930. By 1999, that figure had reached six billion, noted the Women of Grace website.
However, population growth has slowed. Birth control and greater opportunities for women in the workplace and China’s one-child policy have slowed population growth in the industrialized nations. The biggest growth is in the Islamic world where birth control and abortion are restricted and polygamy is practiced.
In the republic of Bosnia-Herzogovina, 12-year-old Adnan Nevic — who the UN declared the sixth billionth baby in 1999, and in nearby Croatia where the UN had declared Matej Gaspar number five billion, both complained that the UN chose them at birth then largely ignored them, according to the British newspaper the Guardian.
“We saw Kofi Annan as almost like a godfather to him,” Adnan’s father, Jasminko, told the Guardian.
“He held me up when I was two days old,” said Adnan, “but since then we have heard nothing from them.”
The UN Population Fund hopes to raise awareness about reproductive health, women’s rights and inequality by selecting children to symbolize the milestones, a spokesperson said. The world’s population is expected to grow by another billion in the next 13 years.