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World - Americas

Latin America struggles to cope with expanding population

New mothers line up at a Mexico City hospital. Average family size in Mexico has declined from seven children per family in 1965 to 2.5 today.  

CNN's Jonathan Karl looks at the conditions that led to this record number and what it means for the world population in the future
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Read the text of the U.N. report

World population closing in on 6 billion

September 21, 1999
Web posted at: 10:10 p.m. EDT (0210 GMT)

From Mexico City Bureau Chief Harris Whitbeck

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- At family planning clinics throughout the Mexican capital, more and more young couples come to hear how they can control their family's growth. The doctors' advice appears to be working: four out of every five couples agree to take family planning measures.

The clinics are part of the Mexican government's effort to curb the country's booming population growth. The program already has helped reduce the average family from seven children in 1965 to 2.5 children today.

But even with that progress, Mexico's population is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent by 2030. The average age of the nation will increase as well, according to projections, creating a challenge to Mexico's economic planners.

"We will have to make sure that social death does not precede biological death -- that all people, regardless of their age, have access to services that would guarantee a healthy and dignified life as they grow older," said Rodolfo Tuiran of the National Council on Population.

This challenge is just one facing developing countries in the years ahead. According to a new report from the U.N. Population Fund, the poorest nations are experiencing the fastest population growth but are the least prepared to handle it. Of the 6 billion people projected to be living on the planet by next month, nearly 5 billion live in developing countries.

"In the midst of the greatest wealth the world has ever seen, there are still people who live without the basic elements of human dignity: safe water, food, housing, safe housing and basic health care and education," said Stirling Scruggs of the U.N. Population Fund.

In Latin America, nations such as Mexico and Brazil are coping with population growth that is accompanied by economic problems. While steps like family planning policies have contributed to changes in Mexico, the United Nations says more must be done.

Primarily, U.N. leaders would like planners and politicians to think ahead, adopting policies that guarantee future generations access to social services and economic opportunity.

World population to top 6 billion this year
Cousteau Watch: Disease -- the new face of overpopulation
Earth-Friendly Living: How many kids does an environmentalist have?
Family planning urged for developing nations

United Nations Population Fund
Zero Population Growth
The Internet Guide to Demography and Population Studies
Georeferenced Population Data Sets of Mexico
Mexico - Population by the Numbers
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