WASHINGTON -- Although family planning programs have sharply cut birth rates in many parts of the world, a dozen of the poorest nations are still expected to triple their populations by mid-century, a U.S. research institute said Wednesday.
"Countries with replacement-level or below-replacement-level fertility collectively account for about 2.6 billion people -- 44 percent of the world's population," said a report issued by the Population Institute.
About 75 nations, most of them in Europe, fall into this category, said the Washington-based nonprofit group that works to draw attention to population issues. But an increasing number of developing countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Central Asia and elsewhere also are successfully suppressing birth rates.
The institute's annual report cautioned, however, that this did not mean that half of the world's population problems have been solved.
"A number of countries continue to grow rapidly and face the adverse effects of overpopulation," it said.
Afghanistan, Angola, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, the Gaza Strip, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Oman, Somalia, Togo, and Uganda are expected to triple their populations over the next half-century, the report said.
And the number of Liberians will quadruple in the same period, the report said.
Overpopulation threatens to cause severe worldwide problems, including starvation and illness when population outruns resources, researchers say. Other threats include depletion of forests for firewood, increase in deserts from damaged farmland, creation of environmental hazards ranging from acid rain to atmospheric changes and destruction of habitats for plants and animals.
The report highlighted several developments:
--The earth's population increased by 78 million this year, and is expected to reach six billion next October;
--97 percent of the increase occurred in poor nations already burdened with economic, environmental, public health and other problems;
--58 countries -- 43 of them in Africa and 12 in Asia -- have fertility rates of five or more children per woman.