TIME Yemen

U.N. Says Yemen on Brink of Famine

Mideast Yemen Food Crisis
Abeer Etefa—AP A mother gives water to her child in Sanaa, Yemen, on Aug. 18, 2015

Four out of 5 Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance

(CAIRO) — The war in Yemen has pushed the country to the brink of famine, with both commercial food imports and aid deliveries held up by the fighting and millions of hungry women and children facing possible starvation, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Ertharin Cousin, head of the U.N.’s World Food Program, said that while some food aid is flowing in, fighting around major ports is stalling deliveries, while reaching the country’s interior is proving difficult and donor funding is still falling short.

“If we do not receive the additional access that is required to meet the needs of those who are affected by this ongoing conflict, if we cannot support the commercial markets by ensuring that the ports are open and providing food to ensure that those who have resources can buy the food that is necessary, and if we do not see increased donor support, we are facing the perfect storm in Yemen,” she told reporters in Cairo.

Cousin was in Cairo following a three-day trip to Yemen. The WFP says all sides in the conflict must approve food deliveries.

U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien, who also just returned from Yemen, told the U.N. Security Council “the scale of human suffering is almost incomprehensible.”

He said he was shocked by what he saw: Four out of five Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, nearly 1.5 million people are internally displaced, and people were using cardboard for mattresses at a hospital where lights flickered, the blood bank had closed and there were no more examination gloves.

Yemen’s conflict pits Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and troops loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The humanitarian situation has steadily deteriorated since the fighting picked up in March, when Saudi Arabia launched a U.S.-backed coalition air campaign against Houthi forces and their allies, which control large swaths of the country, including the capital.

Saudi Arabia views the Houthis as a proxy of its arch rival, Shiite powerhouse Iran, and an attempt to expand its influence on the Arabian Peninsula. Iran supports the Houthis politically but denies arming them.

Pro-government forces pushed the rebels out of the southern port city of Aden last month and have made gains in the surrounding provinces. But their advance stalled on Tuesday after a rebel ambush killed dozens of fighters.

Since August, the food program says it has been able to make 16 deliveries via sea to Yemen, accounting for over 123,000 metric tons of food. But difficulties remain because of the fighting, which has caused port closures. The western port city of Hodeida was hit with airstrikes Tuesday night.

“We actually had a ship berthed in port that was not damaged but had not been given clearance to offload when that bombing attack occurred,” Cousin said. “We’re bringing in food from Hodeida that because of the conflict we can’t get to the south.

“We have right now, a ship sitting off the port of Aden that has materials in it that we could use in the south, and we’re still waiting for permission for that ship to come in,” she said, adding that in order to access the rest of the country, all the ports must be open.

Oxfam’s country director, Philippe Clerc, said only two humanitarian vessels have been able to dock and off-load at the Hodeida port in the past more than two weeks.

O’Brien, the U.N. humanitarian chief, called the airstrikes and shelling at Hodeidah a violation of international humanitarian law, saying they damaged “the main lifelines” for importing crucial food, medicine and fuel and could severely impact the entire country.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, needs to import food even in peacetime.

The WFP estimates that nearly 13 million people in Yemen lack proper access to food, with 6 million, or one in five of the country’s population, in urgent need of assistance. The organization is seeking financial support for a $320 million emergency operation program it expects to launch in September.

Other organizations also registered alarm on Wednesday over the desperate situation in Yemen.

The U.N.’s humanitarian office says to 4,500 people have been killed and a further 23,000 have been wounded to date, many of them civilians.

Human Rights Watch and 22 other human rights and humanitarian organizations said that the U.N.’s Human Rights Council should create a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of war crimes by all parties since September 2014.

In Geneva, the head of the International Red Cross said: “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years.”

___

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.

TIME Iran

U.N. Will Allow Iran to Inspect Alleged Nuclear Work Sites

Hassan Rouhani, Yukiya Amano
Ebrahim Noroozi—AP Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, right, speaks with the International Atomic Energy Agency's director-general, Yukiya Amano, at the start of their meeting in Tehran on July 2, 2015.

The U.S. and the 5 other world powers were briefed about the agreement and endorsed it as part of the larger nuclear deal

(VIENNA) — Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.

The revelation on Wednesday newly riled Republican lawmakers in the U.S. who have been severely critical of a broader agreement to limit Iran’s future nuclear programs, signed by the Obama administration, Iran and five world powers in July. Those critics have complained that the wider deal is unwisely built on trust of the Iranians, while the administration has insisted it depends on reliable inspections.

“International inspections should be done by international inspectors. Period. The standard of ‘anywhere, anytime’ inspections – so critical to a viable agreement – has dropped to ‘when Iran wants, where Iran wants, on Iran’s terms,'” said U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce in a reaction typical of opponents of the broader deal.

The newly disclosed side agreement, for an investigation of the Parchin nuclear site by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, is linked to persistent allegations that Iran has worked on atomic weapons. That investigation is part of the overarching nuclear-limits deal.

Evidence of the inspections concession, as outlined in the document, is sure to increase pressure from U.S. congressional opponents before a Senate vote of disapproval on the overall agreement in early September. If the resolution passes and President Barack Obama vetoes it, opponents would need a two-thirds majority to override it. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has suggested opponents will likely lose a veto fight, though that was before Wednesday’s disclosure.

John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican senator, said, “Trusting Iran to inspect its own nuclear site and report to the U.N. in an open and transparent way is remarkably naive and incredibly reckless. This revelation only reinforces the deep-seated concerns the American people have about the agreement.”

The Parchin agreement was worked out between the IAEA and Iran. The United States and the five other world powers were not party to it but were briefed by the IAEA and endorsed it as part of the larger package.

On Wednesday, White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the Obama administration was “confident in the agency’s technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions of Iran’s former program. … The IAEA has separately developed the most robust inspection regime ever peacefully negotiated.”

All IAEA member countries must give the agency some insight into their nuclear programs. Some are required to do no more than give a yearly accounting of the nuclear material they possess. But nations— like Iran — suspected of possible proliferation are under greater scrutiny that can include stringent inspections.

The agreement in question diverges from normal procedures by allowing Tehran to employ its own experts and equipment in the search for evidence of activities it has consistently denied — trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Olli Heinonen, who was in charge of the Iran probe as deputy IAEA director general from 2005 to 2010, said he could think of no similar concession with any other country.

The White House has repeatedly denied claims of a secret side deal favorable to Tehran. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told Republican senators last week that he was obligated to keep the document confidential.

Iran has refused access to Parchin for years and has denied any interest in — or work on — nuclear weapons. Based on U.S., Israeli and other intelligence and its own research, the IAEA suspects that the Islamic Republic may have experimented with high-explosive detonators for nuclear arms.

The IAEA has cited evidence, based on satellite images, of possible attempts to sanitize the site since the alleged work stopped more than a decade ago.

The document seen by the AP is a draft that one official familiar with its contents said doesn’t differ substantially from the final version. He demanded anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue in public.

The document is labeled “separate arrangement II,” indicating there is another confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA governing the agency’s probe of the nuclear weapons allegations.

Iran is to provide agency experts with photos and videos of locations the IAEA says are linked to the alleged weapons work, “taking into account military concerns.”

That wording suggests that — beyond being barred from physically visiting the site — the agency won’t get photo or video information from areas Iran says are off-limits because they have military significance.

While the document says the IAEA “will ensure the technical authenticity” of Iran’s inspection, it does not say how.

The draft is unsigned but the proposed signatory for Iran is listed as Ali Hoseini Tash, deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for Strategic Affairs. That reflects the significance Tehran attaches to the agreement.

Iranian diplomats in Vienna were unavailable for comment, Wednesday while IAEA spokesman Serge Gas said the agency had no immediate comment.

The main focus of the July 14 deal between Iran and six world powers is curbing Iran’s present nuclear program that could be used to make weapons. But a subsidiary element obligates Tehran to cooperate with the IAEA in its probe of the past allegations.

The investigation has been essentially deadlocked for years, with Tehran asserting the allegations are based on false intelligence from the U.S., Israel and other adversaries. But Iran and the U.N. agency agreed last month to wrap up the investigation by December, when the IAEA plans to issue a final assessment.

That assessment is unlikely to be unequivocal. Still, it is expected to be approved by the IAEA’s board, which includes the United States and the other nations that negotiated the July 14 agreement. They do not want to upend their broader deal, and will see the December report as closing the books on the issue.

TIME Yemen

The Conflict In Yemen Has Killed Almost 400 Children, U.N. Says

Mideast Yemen
Abdulnasser Alseddik—AP In this April 26, 2015, file photo, a man carries a boy who was injured during a crossfire between tribal fighters and Shiite militia known as Houthis, in Taiz, Yemen

At least 1,950 civilians have been killed in the fighting

(UNITED NATIONS) — The conflict in Yemen has killed nearly 400 children since the end of March, and a similar number of children have been recruited by armed groups, according to a new report by the U.N. children’s agency. It warns that the fighting shows “no sign of a resolution.”

This is UNICEF’s first such alert on Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Shiite Houthi rebels since late March. Millions have been trapped in the conflict, and aid groups have warned that many people are on the brink of starvation.

“Basic services that children depend on have been decimated,” UNICEF says.

Its report says that as of a week ago, 398 children have been killed, 377 have been recruited to fight and 1.3 million have fled their homes. The report says the death toll could be much higher. Overall, the U.N. human rights office said Tuesday, at least 1,950 civilians have been killed in the fighting as of Friday.

“Abdul was 4 years old, and he was killed by a sniper,” the report quotes one local child, 7-year-old Nada Nussir as saying. “I do not want to die like him.”

Human rights groups have expressed concern that both sides are violating the laws of war and not doing enough to protect civilians. Amnesty International this week called on the U.N. to create a commission of inquiry to investigate alleged war crimes.

The U.N. and aid groups have called repeatedly for ways to get food, fuel, medicine and other supplies into Yemen, but tight restrictions imposed by the coalition on air and sea transport remain in place, while Yemen’s exiled government accuses the Houthis of hijacking aid.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, and its population relies on imports for about 90 percent of its supplies. Attempts at U.N.-brokered humanitarian pauses to bring in aid have failed.

The new UNICEF report says about 10 million children, or half of the country’s population, need urgent humanitarian assistance.

It also says more than half a million pregnant women in Yemen’s hardest-hit areas are at higher risk for birth or pregnancy complications because they can’t get to medical facilities.

Saudi Arabia months ago pledged to fully fund a $274 million emergency U.N. appeal for Yemen, but a UNICEF spokesman, Rajat Madhok, on Tuesday told The Associated Press that the agency has not received any money from the appeal. Discussions between the kingdom and the world body on the terms of the funding have long delayed the money.

TIME Innovation

How America Is Falling Behind on Scientific Research

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

This week we’re presenting some of the most interesting ideas from the past year.

1. How did America fall so far behind on basic scientific research? (From April 29, 2015)

By Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times

2. The next leader of the U.N. should be a woman. (From March 30, 2015)

By Gillian Sorensen and Jean Krasno in the Washington Post

3. Cuba has a treatment for lung cancer, and now we can get our hands on it. (From May 12, 2015)

By Neel V. Patel in Wired

4. Technology’s greatest gift to social justice is the mobile phone camera. (From April 29, 2015)

By Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic

5. Want to change how you see the world? Rewire your brain by learning a second language. (From March 23, 2015)

By Nicholas Weiler in Science Magazine

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME world affairs

Your Guide to the Paris U.N. Climate Talks

Flag of the United Nations at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City on Sept. 24, 2014.
Thomas Koehler—Photothek via Getty Images Flag of the United Nations at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City on Sept. 24, 2014.

How we got here and what to watch for

As the preparations for the global climate change conference in Paris in December heat up in parallel with the planet, negotiators in the United Nations climate talks recently released a proposed skeleton agreement. The draft includes the key pieces of a legal agreement that are meant to be finalized by nearly 200 countries in Paris.

The text is very much an early draft, littered with alternative wordings and unsettled provisions, but it provides the clearest illustration to date of what kind of agreement countries are heading toward.

The documents also bring to light the many politically sensitive issues negotiators will need to grapple with in Paris.

Why Paris is different

Typically, global environmental treaties, including earlier ones on climate change from 1992 and 1997, set out comprehensive legal commitments – a cornerstone of international law. But the ill-fated Copenhagen meeting in 2009 showed in spectacular fashion that this approach is no longer possible on climate change. There, the United States, China, India and other leading countries outside the European Union sharply rejected the idea that each country in the United Nations process should take on negotiated, legally binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead, the hastily scrambled together Copenhagen Accord ended up a political document, merely encouraging countries to submit voluntary, and widely varying, greenhouse gas targets for 2020. Since then, the leaders of China, the United States and other countries have voiced support for more concerted action, but many still prefer to keep any national targets voluntary. In typically awkward U.N.-speak, these are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Consequently, countries in Paris will seek to develop a new hybrid approach. The intent is to establish a universal legal agreement that lays out basic provisions, but each countries’ INDCs are submitted separately, and implementation issues are intended to be addressed in political decisions adopted separately at the Paris meeting.

Defenders of international law often prefer treaties because binding commitments are legally strong. Countries sometimes violate legal obligations, but most countries follow most international law most of the time. Countries also often think twice before violating their legal obligations, because international law creates stability and predictability. And countries that renege on legal commitments risk losing one of the most priced commodities in international relations – other countries’ trust that may be needed in future cooperation.

But not all analysts believe that legal obligations are always superior to more political approaches. Because countries tend to respect international law, they may simply elect to not sign up to rules they cannot (or do not want to) abide to. In that case, the choice is between a legal treaty with only a few members, and a legally weaker agreement with more members. With the top 10 emitting countries responsible for two-thirds of global emissions, leaving any of these countries standing on the sidelines would be highly problematic to any multinational climate agreement.

Since Copenhagen, the international political scales on climate change have tipped away from the traditional treaty system to one that embraces a higher degree of voluntarism. This has paid some dividends in the form of greater participation. Among those that have already submitted their INDCs for 2030 are China, the United States, the European Union and Japan.

How solid is U.S. commitment?

But despite this political buy-in from leading emitters, there are several potential pitfalls ahead.

International legal agreements depend on countries’ willingness to incorporate them into national law and to implement and enforce their obligations through domestic institutions. Once international commitments are enshrined in domestic law, there is a significant hurdle for political leaders to backtrack, which would have both national and international implications.

Yet in some instances, countries may more actively follow through on voluntary promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions by, for example, expanding renewable energy generation and improving energy efficiency. This is in large part because what countries set out to do in their INDC is often already national policy and/or measures they are confident will be adopted later. In other words, countries are prone to only submit INDCs that are clearly within reach.

But all of this is dependent on one critical aspect: that future national political leaders honor political promises made by today’s leaders in Paris. This is true for all countries, but uncertainties about the future path of the United States, in particular, stand out.

The Obama administration favors voluntary INDCs partly because the US contribution was formulated within the executive branch and so does not require congressional approval. The Obama administration this month released the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan that sets limits on carbon emissions from power plants. That mandate along with fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and other measures are the primary methods for meeting the US emissions reductions pledge.

However, this means that the next White House occupant is free to decide U.S. international climate change policy. Here, the very large differences between presidential candidates on climate change can have substantial national and foreign policy ramifications, as countries and trading partners will expect the U.S. to fulfill earlier promises.

Follow the money (or lack thereof)

Another central issue that the skeleton agreement draws attention to is financial support for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

These are, in many instances, both among the first ones to feel the negative impact of, for example, temperature increases and changes in precipitation and weather patterns, and those that struggle the most to deal with growing adaptation needs. They have also contributed very little to the problem, having historically low emissions.

The U.N.-organized Green Climate Fund is intended to generate $100 billion a year from public and private sources by 2020, but we have so far seen little of that. Connected to a much larger and longstanding debate about funding for sustainable development, developing countries insist that financial contributions from donor countries should be mandatory, but industrialized countries prefer voluntary mechanisms.

These fundamental financial disagreements also tie in with related debates around how to best to prepare developing countries and transfer technologies for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

These discussions are further complicated by the lack of consensus on how to design the basic mechanisms for monitoring, reporting and verifying countries’ measures for emissions reductions.

At the same time, developing countries are increasingly forced to quickly figure out how to best limit negative consequences of climate change and how to design working strategies to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance resilience. Here, the rich can start learning from the poor, who are the ones doing much of the on-the-ground experimentation and innovation.

Two degree Celsius target slipping away

Critically, we will likely not be able to keep average global temperature increases under two degrees Celsius, an important benchmark climate scientists have recommended to avoid more dramatic disruptions.

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated that total, cumulative anthropogenic carbon emissions need to stay below 1,000 gigatons of carbon in order to not exceed the two-degree threshold. By 2011, countries had already emitted over half of this budget, and if current emission trends continue, we will exceed the budget before 2050.

The Paris pledges and other mitigation efforts so far are not ambitious enough to keep us below the 2 degrees Celsius target, according to independent research initiative Climate Tracker. And even after emissions are drastically reduced, the climate changes that occur will be with us for the next thousand years. Thus, the Paris negotiations and our actions in the next three decades will determine the future of the climate for the next millennium.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME United Nations

U.N. Approves Resolution on Syria Chemical Weapons Attacks

U.N. Security Council members vote on a draft resolution in the Security Council and vetoed by Russia, that would have created a tribunal to prosecute those found responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 29, 2015 at U.N. headquarters.
Bebeto Matthews—AP U.N. Security Council members vote on a draft resolution in the Security Council and vetoed by Russia, that would have created a tribunal to prosecute those found responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 29, 2015 at U.N. headquarters.

The goal is to bring the perpetrators to justice

(UNITED NATIONS) — The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at identifying those responsible for using chlorine and other chemical weapons in attacks in Syria that have killed and injured a growing number of civilians.

While Russia and the United States have failed to agree on a way to end the Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year, the have agreed on eliminating the country’s chemical weapons.

The draft resolution fills a gap in assigning blame for chemical weapons attacks so the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

The Security Council’s vote on Friday came just two days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached agreement on the final text of the resolution. None of the 13 other council members raised objections.

TIME russia

Russia Submits Claim for Vast Arctic Territories to U.N.

Russia Arctic
AP In this, Aug. 2, 2007 file made available by the Association of Russian Polar Explorers on, Aug. 8, 2007, photo a titanium capsule with the Russian flag is seen seconds after it was planted by the Mir-1 mini submarine on the Arctic Ocean seabed under the North Pole during a record dive.

Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic

(MOSCOW) — Russia has submitted its bid for vast territories in the Arctic to the United Nations, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement that Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Artic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore.

Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas. Rivalry for Arctic resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening new opportunities for exploration.

Russia was the first to submit its claim in 2002, but the U.N. sent it back for lack of evidence.

The ministry said that the resubmitted bid contains new arguments. “Ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research are used to back the Russian claim,” it said.

Greenpeace responded by warning of the environmental risks.

“The melting of the Arctic ice is uncovering a new and vulnerable sea, but countries like Russia and Norway want to turn it into the next Saudi Arabia,” Greenpeace Russia Arctic campaigner Vladimir Chuprov said in a statement. “Unless we act together, this region could be dotted with oil wells and fishing fleets within our lifetimes.”

He urged countries seeking jurisdiction over the Arctic to work together to create a protected sanctuary around the North Pole.

Russia expects the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to start looking at its bid in the fall, the ministry said.

In 2007, Moscow staked a symbolic claim to the Arctic seabed by dropping a canister containing the Russian flag on the ocean floor from a submarine at the North Pole.

The Kremlin also has moved to beef up Russian military forces in the Arctic. The effort has included the restoration of a Soviet-era military base on the New Siberian Islands and other military outposts in the Arctic. Earlier this year, the military conducted sweeping maneuvers in the Arctic that involved 38,000 servicemen, more than 50 surface ships and submarines and 110 aircraft. As part of the drills, the military demonstrated its capability to quickly beef up its forces on the Arctic Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land archipelagos.

TIME arctic

Russia Ups The Ante In The Race For The Arctic

Russian President Vladimir Putin salutes
MAXIM MARMUR—AFP/Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the observation point of the Arctic cosmodrome in Plesetsk.

Area could hold almost a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas

Russia is not giving up in its bid to claim as much of the Arctic as it can.

Eight years after literally placing a flag via submarine on the seabed of the North Pole, Russia announced that it has submitted a formal claim to Arctic territory to the United Nations.

According to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, the country is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers of Arctic sea shelf. Last year, according to the Moscow Times, the Russian Natural Resources and Environment Minister said the forthcoming claim would contain about 5 billion tons of oil and gas resources.

As global warming causes the Arctic ice cap to melt, more of the previously unchartered territory has become accessible. Russia is jockeying with Canada, the United States, Denmark, and Norway to claim the territory that could hold almost a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.

Russia already submitted Arctic claims to the United Nations in 2002, but those were rejected due to lack of evidence. Denmark and Canada have also staked claims to Arctic territory, citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

TIME India

India Will Become the World’s Most Populous Country by 2022, the U.N. Says

180273248
Getty Images

That's much earlier than previously thought

India is on track to become the world’s most populous nation in less than a decade — or six years earlier than previously thought, according to the U.N.

With 1.38 billion people compared with India’s 1.31 billion, China is currently the world’s most populous country. Figures for both countries are expected to swell to around 1.4 billion by 2022, at which point India’s population is likely to expand beyond China’s.

At the end of the next decade, in 2030, India is projected to have 1.5 billion people, a figure that’s forecast to balloon to 1.7 billion by 2050. China’s population, on the other hand, is forecast to remain relatively stable until the 2030s, at which point the U.N. says it is likely to “slightly decrease.” In a forecast published two years ago, India had been expected to overtake China around the year 2028.

The projections from the population division of the U.N.’s economic and social affairs unit were published in a new report that also forecast an expansion in the world’s overall population to 8.5 billion by 2030. By the middle of the century, there are likely to be as many as 9.7 billion people worldwide, with six of the 10 largest countries — India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and the U.S. — expected to have populations exceeding 300 million people.

“While the global projections should not be cause for alarm, we must recognize that the concentration of population growth in the poorest countries presents a distinct set of challenges, making it more difficult to eradicate poverty and inequality, to combat hunger and malnutrition, and to expand educational enrollment and health systems,” John Wilmoth, who heads the U.N. division that produced the report, told the Associated Press.

India’s population is not growing the fastest, however, with Nigeria growing at such a rapid pace that it is expected to have more people than the U.S. by 2050, at which point it is likely to become the third most populous country in the world.

TIME public health

1 in 3 People Worldwide Don’t Have Proper Toilets, Report Says

A clean-up volunteer scoops plastic waste at an open sewer in Manila on May 4, 2015. Non-governmental environmental groups are calling for national legislation to prevent plastic waste that clog waterways.
Jay Directo—AFP/Getty Images A cleanup volunteer scoops plastic waste at an open sewer in Manila on May 4, 2015. Nongovernmental environmental groups are calling for national legislation to prevent plastic waste that clog waterways

Lack of proper sanitation facilities increases risk of waterborne diseases

About 2.4 billion people — or roughly one-third of the world’s population — still lack access to proper toilets, according to a report published Tuesday by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

The study warns that progress on sanitation is falling short of the targets outlined in the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, even though significant improvements have been made in related areas including access to safe drinking water. Today, only 68% of the world’s population has access to proper sanitation facilities, a handful of percentage points short of the goal of 77%. Many of those who lack proper toilets and defecate in the open live in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report.

“Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases,” said WHO public-health director Dr. Maria Neira in a statement.

The U.N. is expected to outline new Sustainable Development Goals in September, with a goal of expanding sanitation facilities and eliminating open defecation by 2030.

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