Early pregnancy, under-5 mortality impact population rise in sub-Saharan Africa: UN report

World’s population is projected to reach 8 billion by November 15

By Seema Prasad
Published: Monday 01 August 2022

Countries of sub-Saharan Africa, including The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania, are expected to contribute more than half to the population boom by 2050, according to a new report released by the United Nations (UN).

World’s population is projected to reach 8 billion by November 15, 2022 and is likely to hit 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, the annual World Population Prospect released July 11, 2022, further stated.

The world’s population will peak in the 2080s with 10.4 billion people on the planet and stay on that level till 2100, the report highlighted

The population increase in sub-Saharan Africa is due to high fertility rates, which are twice that of the global average. In 2021, sub-Saharan Africa recorded 4.6 births per woman, whereas the global average fertility was only 2.3 births per woman.

Other regions with high fertility rates are:

  • Oceania, excluding Australia and New Zealand (3.1)
  • Northern Africa and Western Asia (2.8)
  • Central and Southern Asia (2.3)

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are still battling high levels of adolescent fertility, contributing to their population increase.

Adolescent childbearing in northern Africa and most parts of Asia dropped since the latter part of the 1970s.

Despite this fall, 13.3 million kids were born globally to mothers younger than 20, half of whom belong to sub-Saharan Africa. The birth rate in sub-Saharan Africa is 101 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in 2021. 

Latin America and the Caribbean are the other regions with high levels of adolescent fertility, with 53 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19.

The report said:

Early pregnancy and motherhood can have adverse health and social consequences, both for the young mothers and for the children they bear. In Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa, most governments consider adolescent fertility a major concern. And they have adopted policy measures to improve adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health. 

Under-five mortality rates contribute to low life expectancy in low-income countries.

“Globally, the under-five mortality rate fell from 92.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 37.1 in 2021. Still, a child born in sub-Saharan Africa in 2021 is 20 times as likely to die before their fifth birthday as compared to a child born in Australia and New Zealand,” the report added.

In 2019, life expectancy was at 72.8 years. It fell further to 71 years during the pandemic in 2021 and will go up to 77.2 years in 2050, the projections said. 

In 2021, life expectancy for the least developed countries was seven years behind the global average due to high child and maternal mortality rates, violence and conflict, or the continuing impact of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic.

The UN report said HIV/AIDs is still a public health concern of epidemic proportions. Nevertheless, due to the increasing availability of antiretroviral treatments (ART), HIV-related mortality peaked in the last decade across several countries.

However, the disease still impacts the population growth across the southern Africa’s sub-regions.

In the 1990s, before the introduction of ART, life expectancy at birth was 63.1 years in 1990 and fell further to 53.1 years in 2005. In 2019, with improvements in access to ART, life expectancy came back to 1990 levels at 65.5 years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to removing the gains in life expectancy recorded in Southern Africa over the past decades with life expectancy at birth declining to 61.8 years in 2021,” the report said.

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