7 billionth baby: Congratulations are mixed with dire words
Danica May Camacho of the Philippines became the U.N.'s symbolic 7 billionth baby in the world with her birth two minutes before midnight Sunday. Doctors said that was close enough.
Camacho was greeted by camera flashes and shouted cheers at a government-run hospital in the Philippines, according to Agence France-Presse. U.N. officials were on hand to congratulate the parents, Camille Dalura and Florante Camacho, and present the family with a cake.
Other countries around the globe followed suit, staking their claim to 7-billionth status. India celebrated the birth of a girl named Nargis, born in the state of Uttar Pradesh. In Sri Lanka, baby girl Muthumali had her 15 minutes of fame. And so on.
But despite the cheers, it was a decidedly mixed reception for the newborns as congratulations came with warnings.
Dr. Eric Tayag of the Philippines' Department of Health said in the AFP report: "Seven billion is a number we should think about deeply. We should really focus on the question of whether there will be food, clean water, shelter, education and a decent life for every child. If the answer is no, it would be better for people to look at easing this population explosion."
Although the U.N. set Oct. 31, 2011, as the symbolic date, demographers have acknowledged it's impossible to know exactly the specific time or day that the 7-billion threshold is crossed. The U.S. Census Bureau says the milestone won't be reached until March.
But, as reported in the Los Angeles Times on Monday, the planet's population is growing -- and quickly. The U.N. estimates 9.3 billion by 2050 and more than 10.1 billion by the end of the century.
The new leader of the United Nations Population Fund, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin of Nigeria, has used the occasion to stress the need for family planning in the developing world. He said in a recent report: "Instead of asking questions like 'Are we too many?' we should instead be asking 'What can I do to make our world better?' "
But David Lam, in an L.A. Times opinion piece Sunday, had an upbeat take:
In spite of the daunting challenges facing the world, including global warming, rising food prices and a billion people in poverty, the 7-billionth child will almost surely have a better life than the 3-billionth or 6-billionth child.
Adnan Nevic was the U.N.-proclaimed 6 billionth baby, born Oct. 12, 1999. He now lives in poverty in the Bosnian town of Visoko, as Radio Free Europe reports.
In the Philippines, Lorrize Mae Guevarra was celebrated to be No. 6 billion. The sixth-grader was on hand Monday for the birth of the symbolic 7 billionth. She said: "I am very happy to see this cute baby. I hope like me she will grow up to become healthy and well loved by everyone."
-- Amy Hubbard
Photo: Muthumali was born to W.G. Dhanushika Dilani and her husband, Ishara, a minute after midnight in Sri Lanka. Credit: M.A. Pushpa Kumara / EPA