The world welcomed its symbolic “seven billionth” baby on Monday but celebrations were tempered by worries over the strain that humanity's population explosion is putting on a fragile planet.
Countries around the world have been marking the demographic milestone in a variety of ways.
Russian authorities showered gifts on newborns, while Papua New Guinea handed out special “goody bags” for new mothers. The Philippines was the first country to declare a seven billionth baby, a little girl named Danica May Camacho.
Weighing 2.5 kg, Danica was delivered just before midnight on Sunday under a blitz of media camera flashes at Manila's Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital.
U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement marking milestone: “From the moment the child was born, he or she — like every other child born today or any other day — should be guaranteed freedom from fear and want, protection from discrimination and abuse, and equal access to security, justice and respect as a member of the human family.”
The birth comes at a time of great hope, said Ms. Pillay.
“The global awakening of 2011, which began in a town in Tunisia and spread to other towns and cities around the world, promises to restore the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of a life of freedom from fear and want for all, without discrimination.”
The United Nations named a Bosnian child, Adnan Mevic, as the Earth's six billionth inhabitant on October 12, 1999, when then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan was pictured in a Sarajevo hospital with the child in his arms.
The Mevic family is now living in poverty — which is one reason why no one baby was being singled out for the global spotlight this time. Instead, many births were being marked throughout the day.
In Bangladesh, authorities named another baby girl the world's seven billionth child. Weighing 2.75 kg and named Oishee, she arrived a minute after midnight at a hospital in the capital Dhaka.
In Cambodia the honour fell to a baby girl who has yet to be named. Weighing three kilos, she was born in the southern province of Preah Sihanouk, her parents' fifth child.
The world has added a billion babies — or almost another China — since Adnan Mevic was born. Having taken millennia to pass the one-billion mark, the world's population has now doubled in 50 years.
Mounting concern over humanity's environmental impact and fears that we may not be able to feed ourselves 100 years from now cast a cautionary tone over the buildup to Monday's milestone.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told students at a New York school last week: “Seven billion people who need enough food. Enough energy. Good opportunities in life for jobs and education. Rights and freedoms. The freedom to speak. The freedom to raise their own children in peace and security. Everything you want for yourself — seven billion times over.”
With about two babies being born every second, the figure can only go up and up in the decades to come — to more than 10 billion by 2100, according to U.N. estimates.