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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Happy birthday, baby 6 billion

U.N. demographers announced Oct. 12 the birth of a baby who would bring the world's population to 6 billion. More likely than not, experts say, this child was born in a developing country and will be poor, illiterate and unhealthy. The baby may not live to see its first birthday.

In the past 30 years, children's deaths in developing countries have been reduced by half. But 24,000 still die daily.

"So many children's deaths from diarrhea and malnutrition could easily be prevented with enough food," says Lita Brusick-Johnson, director of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, which is working to reduce those fatalities through women's health and development programs. "This results in smaller families," she says. "When areas become food-secure with the basics people need, a harsh reality is that the population goes down because people don't have to worry about three-fourths of their children dying."

Of the world's 6 billion:

* 1 in 5 is chronically malnourished, down from 1 in 3 in 1970.
* 1 in 5 lives without safe drinking water.
* 50 percent are 25 years old or younger; 95 percent of this group live in developing countries.
* Average life expectancy is 66 years.
* Couples in developed nations have an average of 1.6 children, down from 2.8 in the 1950s. For sub-Saharan Africa, that decline was from 6.5 to 5.5.


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