Baby boom for some nations, bust for others: study

The IHME found that Cyprus was the least fertile nation on Earth, with the average woman giving birth just once in her life. (AP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Baby boom for some nations, bust for others: study

  • Ninety-one nations, mainly in Europe and North and South America, weren’t producing enough children to sustain their current populations, according to the IHME study
  • In Africa and Asia fertility rates continued to grow, with the average woman in Niger giving birth to seven children during her lifetime

PARIS: Soaring birth rates in developing nations are fueling a global baby boom while women in dozens of richer countries aren’t producing enough children to maintain population levels there, according to figures released Friday.
A global overview of birth, death and disease rates evaluating thousands of datasets on a country-by-country basis also found that heart disease was now the single leading cause of death worldwide.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), set up at the University of Washington by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used more than 8,000 data sources — more than 600 of them new — to compile one of the most detailed looks at global public health.
Their sources included in-country investigations, social media and open-source material.
It found that while the world’s population skyrocketed from 2.6 billion in 1950 to 7.6 billion last year, that growth was deeply uneven according to region and income.
Ninety-one nations, mainly in Europe and North and South America, weren’t producing enough children to sustain their current populations, according to the IHME study.
But in Africa and Asia fertility rates continued to grow, with the average woman in Niger giving birth to seven children during her lifetime.
Ali Mokdad, professor of Health Metrics Sciences at IHME, told AFP that the single most important factor in determining population growth was education.
“It is down to socioeconomic factors but it’s a function of a woman’s education,” he said. “The more a woman is educated, she is spending more years in school, she is delaying her pregnancies and so will have fewer babies.”
The IHME found that Cyprus was the least fertile nation on Earth, with the average woman giving birth just once in her life.
By contrast, women in Mali, Chad and Afghanistan have on average more than six babies.
The United Nations predicts there will be more than 10 billion humans on the planet by the middle of the century, broadly in line with IHME’s projection.
This raises the question of how many people our world can support, known as Earth’s “carrying capacity.”
Mokdad said that while populations in developing nations continue to rise, so in general are their economies growing.
This typically has a knock-on effect on fertility rates over time.
“In Asia and Africa the population is still increasing and people are moving from poverty to better income — unless there are wars or unrest,” he said.
“Countries are expected to fare better economically and it’s more likely that fertility there will decline and level out.”
Not only are there now billions more of us than 70 years ago, but we are also living longer than ever before.
The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, showed male life expectancy had increased to 71 years from 48 in 1950. Women are now expected to live to 76, compared with 53 in 1950.
Living longer brings its own health problems, as we age and deteriorate and place greater burdens on our health care systems.
The IHME said heart disease was now the leading cause of death globally. As recently as 1990, neonatal disorders were the biggest killer, followed by lung disease and diarrhea.
Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Azerbaijan had the highest death rates from heart disease, where as South Korea, Japan and France had among the lowest.
“You see less mortality from infectious diseases as countries get richer, but also more disability as people are living longer,” said Mokdad.
He pointed out that although deaths from infectious diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are down significantly since 1990, new, non-communicable killers have taken their place.
“There are certain behaviors that are leading to an increase in cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Obesity is number one — it is increasing every year and our behavior is contributing to that.”


Sudan protesters show resilience, employ Arab Spring tactics

Updated 46 min 20 sec ago
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Sudan protesters show resilience, employ Arab Spring tactics

  • Activists challenging President Omar Al-Bashir’s autocratic rule say they have learned from their Arab Spring counterparts and introduced tactics of their own
  • Sudan did not experience the mass street protests that swept several Arab nations in 2011

CAIRO: The anti-government protests rocking Sudan for the past month are reminiscent of the Arab Spring uprisings of nearly a decade ago. Demonstrators, many in their 20s and 30s, are trying to remove an authoritarian leader and win freedoms and human rights.
Activists challenging President Omar Al-Bashir’s autocratic rule say they have learned from their Arab Spring counterparts and introduced tactics of their own. That and their persistence appear to pose a real threat to the 29-year rule of the general-turned-president.
Sudan did not experience the mass street protests that swept several Arab nations in 2011. At the time, Sudan was preoccupied with the secession of the mainly animizt and Christian south, which was taking with it most of the country’s oil wealth.
In 2013, a spike in fuel prices sparked protests in Sudan that were brutally squashed, with rights groups saying at the time that about 200 demonstrators were killed.
More than five years later, Sudan is engulfed by unrest once more.
Again, price hikes were a trigger. Protesters reached by The Associated Press painted a picture of resolve born out of despair, mainly from worsening economic conditions that many Sudanese blame in large part on mismanagement and widespread corruption.
“I am tired of prices going up every minute and standing up in bread lines for hours only for the bakery’s owner to decide how many loaves I can buy,” a 42-year-old woman, Fatima, said during protests last week on the outskirts of the capital of Khartoum.
Fatima and others speaking to the AP would not provide their full names, insisting on anonymity because they fear reprisals by the authorities.
Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar or yeast and tree leaves to fend off tear gas. They said they try to fatigue police by staging nighttime flash protests in residential alleys unfamiliar to the security forces
“We have used tactics employed by the Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians but we have so far refrained from pelting security forces with rocks or firebombs,” said Ashraf, another demonstrator.
They said there was little they can do about live ammunition except to keep medics and doctors close by to administer first aid to casualties.
They also described checking paths of planned protests to identify escape routes and potential ambushes by police. Some of their slogans are borrowed from the Arab Spring days, like “the people want to bring down the regime” and “erhal!” — Arabic for “leave!“
Participants have mostly been in the high hundreds or low thousands, not the tens or hundreds of thousands seen in Egypt or Yemen in 2011, but Sudan’s protest leaders don’t see a reason for concern.
“All that we do now is to prepare Sudan’s streets, so when zero hour arrives, the entire country will be ready to go out on the streets,” said Aseel, a 25-year-old activist.
Authorities in Sudan have used tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and batons to quell the unrest. They have imposed emergency laws and night-time curfews in some cities and suspended classes in schools and universities in others. They have arrested opposition leaders, doctors, journalists, lawyers and students along with some 800 protesters.
Recently, police stormed a hospital in the greater Khartoum area where injured protesters were taken. Police fired tear gas inside the facility’s yard, according to Amnesty International and activists.
“When we take our wounded to hospital, we pretend to be calm and collected so we don’t attract the attention of plainclothes security agents stationed there,” said one protester.
The protesters said they organize on social media, just like protesters did across the region in 2011. They try to elude the police by either giving gathering points codenames known only to protest leaders or publicizing false locations to mislead the authorities.
They also have secured free-of-charge medical care for the wounded in a handful of private Khartoum clinics and use donations to settle medical bills for those admitted to other hospitals.
Rights groups say at least 40 people, including children, have been killed in the clashes, most by gunshot wounds. Al-Bashir’s government has acknowledged only 24 deaths.
Al-Bashir has ordered an investigation into the “recent events” — a thinly veiled reference to the deaths — following demands by rights groups and Western nations, including the United States, that his government probe the use of live ammunition and bring the culprits to justice. A similar probe into the death of the protesters in 2013 came to nothing.
But despite the use of live ammunition and what protesters say is the excessive use of tear gas the protests have continued longer than rounds of anti-government unrest in 2012 and 2013. They have drawn many women — unusual for conservative and overwhelmingly Muslim Sudan — and stayed peaceful except early on when protesters damaged property.
Despite fears of arrest and the danger posed by live fire, “we have no choice but to resist,” said protester Abdul-Metaal Saboun, 25, an unemployed university graduate.
Saboun was detained for three days early in the protests, which were sparked by price rises and shortages, but which soon shifted to demands that Al-Bashir step down.
“There is little we can do about snipers except that some of us search rooftops or scream ‘sniper’ when we spot one, so people take more care,” he said.
He said he was tortured during detention. “There is nothing that makes me frightened of them anymore,” Saboun said, explaining why he agreed to have his full name published.