World population levels could soar to explosive heights if contraception doesn’t become readily available to women in developing countries.
Friday marks World Population Day, the United Nation’s awareness event that invites experts to assess population growth and its global effects.
The population currently sits at 7.2 billion, according to the U.N. It will likely hit 10.9 billion by the end of the century, but could very well climb to 27 billion if fertility rates remain constant, according to the Population Institute.
The impact of such swelling numbers could be devastating.
Currently, 1.2 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day and one out of every eight people in the world struggles with hunger.
The world is running out of land that’s suitable for food production and by 2025, an estimated 3.5 billion people are expected to be living in water-scarce regions.
While the percentage of women using contraception is increasing, the figures are still not where they need to be.
As part of its Millennial Development Goals, the U.N. had designated 2015 as the year for achieving universal access to reproductive health. But that goal won’t be met.
It’s for that reason that the U.N. is focusing this year’s World Population Day on young people -- on fighting back against child marriage and pushing for improved access to sexual health.
"For millions of young people around the world, puberty … brings not only changes to their bodies, but also new vulnerabilities to human rights abuses, particularly in the areas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing," Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA executive director, said in a statement. "Millions of girls are coerced into unwanted sex or marriage, increasing the risks of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as death or disability due to childbirth."
Child marriage is now on the rise. An estimated 13.5 million girls have been married off before turning 18, according to a World Vision study released last year.
But girls and women are eager to gain access to birth control. In fact, 222 million women in the developing world want to avoid getting pregnant, but don’t have access to a modern method of contraception, according to the Population Institute.
It’s a lifesaving measure, experts say, the world can’t afford to overlook or deem too "controversial" to tackle.
"It’s not controversial in many, many other places in the world. And just because it’s controversial doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the right thing for women," family planning advocate Melinda Gates said in a New York Times interview last year. "If women are telling you that, 'I don’t want to have seven children, I can only feed two or three, but I don’t have a way to plan for those children,' we should do the right thing, regardless if it’s controversial."