Deaths Outnumber Births as AIDS Ravages Southern Africa

UNITED NATIONS, Feb (IPS) – The HIV/AIDS epidemic, which continues to devastate mostly the world’s poorer nations, has increased the rate of mortality and slowed population growth, according to a new U.N. report released Thursday.

Of the 60 highly affected countries, 40 are in sub-Saharan Africa, 12 in Latin America and the Caribbean, five in Asia, two in Europe and one in North America (the United States).

In Southern Africa, described as the region with the highest prevalence of the deadly disease, life expectancy has fallen sharply: from 62 years in 1990-1995 to 48 years in 2000-2005.

The average life span in that region is also projected to decrease further: to about 43 years over the next decade, before a slow recovery starts.

”As a consequence, population growth in the region is expected to stall between 2005 and 2020,” says the study titled ”World Population Prospects: the 2004 Revision”.

In Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland, population is projected to decrease as deaths outnumber births.

But in most of the other developing nations affected by the AIDS epidemic, which began 25 years ago, population growth will continue to be positive as their moderate or high fertility more than counterbalances the rise in mortality.

The gender dimension of the impact of AIDS is particularly important in sub-Saharan Africa, where women are infected with HIV at younger ages and in greater numbers than men, according to the study.

In four countries — Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe — female life expectancy fell below male life expectancy during 2000-2005, primarily due to AIDS.

”We must take more urgent action to promote access to reproductive health, including family planning, and fight HIV/AIDS to save millions of lives from AIDS and maternal death, as well as to reduce poverty in developing countries,” Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), told IPS.

As the world reviews the successes and failures of the 1995 Beijing women’s conference (at the upcoming two-week-long U.N. meeting beginning Monday), ”we must promote women’s rights to protect their welfare and health, especially reproductive health,” she said.

”Too many of our sisters in developing countries are lost to their families and societies due to maternal death. We must do better to empower women to help eliminate poverty and promote prosperity,” Obaid added.

She pointed out that developing countries suffer most of the world’s deaths from AIDS and lose most of the half million women who die each year from childbirth-related causes.

”It is vital for all donors to invest the amounts they have pledged to tackle these problems in the poor countries that lack the resources to do so,” she added.

Developing nations have said in many forums that they need additional resources to prevent HIV/AIDS, expand maternal health and facilitate socioeconomic development for their rising populations, Obaid said.

According to the U.N. report, world population will increase by 2.6 billion over the next 45 years: from 6.5 billion today to 9.1 billion by 2050.

During 2005-2050, nine countries are expected to account for half of the world’s projected population increase: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, the United States, Ethiopia and China, listed according to the size of their contribution to population growth.

Very rapid population growth is expected in a number of developing countries, the majority of which are least developed, the poorest of the poor.

Between 2005 and 2050, population is projected to at least triple in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Timor-Leste, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger and Uganda.

The population of 51 countries, including Germany, Italy, Japan and most of the successor states of the former Soviet Union, is expected to be lower in 2050 than in 2005.

The study also points out that future population growth depends on the path of fertility and projections were ”contingent on ensuring that couples have access to family planning, and that efforts to arrest the current spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic are successful in reducing its growth momentum.”

Meanwhile, international migration is also playing a key role in population growth in developed countries.

In 2000-2005, net migration in 28 countries either prevented population decline or doubled at least the contribution of natural increase (births minus deaths) to population growth.

These countries include Austria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

After 2000, Asia is expected to be the origin of over half of all migrants leaving the less developed regions, Latin America and the Caribbean of about 25 to 30 percent of them, and Africa the rest.

In terms of annual averages, the major net receivers of international migrants are projected to be the United States (1.1 million annually), Germany (204,000), Canada (201,000), the United Kingdom (133,000), Italy (120,000) and Australia (100,000).

The major countries of net emigration are projected to be China (minus 333,000 annually), Mexico (minus 304,000), India (minus 245,000), the Philippines (minus 180,000), Pakistan (minus 173,000) and Indonesia (minus 168,000)

However, the study warns that international migration is the component of population change most difficult to define, measure and estimate reliably.

Thus, the quality and quantity of the data used in the estimation and projection of net migration varies considerably by country.

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