World health report

Executive summary

The global situation - 1995 update

Population. In mid-1995, the global population was about 5720 million people. It is projected to reach 7900 million in 2020, and 9800 million in 2050. By 2050 the least developed nations will have a population of about 1700 million compared with about 589 million today. For the foreseeable future, the heaviest burdens of ill-health are therefore likely to continue to fall on the 80% of the world's population who live in developing countries, and especially in those countries whose populations are growing fastest and which are least able to sustain economic development.

Urbanization. By 1995, about 2 600 million people, or 45% of the world's population, were living in urban areas. About 200 million now live in cities with populations exceeding 10 million; the total is expected to be 450 million in the next 20 years, almost all of the increase taking place in the developing world, where already there is a proliferation of slums and squatter settlements with millions of people lacking safe and adequate drinking-water, sanitation and solid-waste disposal facilities. Consequently there are growing risks of waterborne and foodborne diseases.

Fertility. Women are having fewer babies: in 1970, they had an average of 4.7, and the average declined to 3.7 by 1980, to 3.2 by 1990, and is now 3. Increasing use of contraception is the main explanation. In 1995, about 140 million babies were born - 16 million in the industrialized world, 25 million in the least developed countries, and 98 million in other developing countries.

Life expectancy. Globally, average life expectancy at birth in 1995 was more than 65 years, an increase of more than three years since 1985. The life expectancy gap between the industrialized and the developing world has narrowed to 13.3 years in 1995 from 25 years in 1955. But the gap between least developed and other developing countries has widened from seven years to more than 13 years in the same period.

Mortality. About 52 million people died in 1995. The number is almost the same as it was 35 years ago, but the global population has almost doubled in that time. The developing world's death rate has declined sharply from 20 per 1000 population in 1960 to about nine in 1995, due to mortality reduction particularly in the youngest age groups. The least developed countries lag about 25 years behind other developing nations in the decline in death rates. The rate is highest in Africa.

Child mortality. Defined as the probability of dying by the age of five years, the global average in 1995 was 81.7 per 1000 live births; 8.5 in the industrialized world, 90.6 in the developing world and 155.5 in the least developed nations. Of more than 11 million such deaths in the developing world, nine million have been attributed to infectious diseases, about 25% preventable by immunization.