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The seven billionth babies arrive

She came into the world at two minutes before midnight, a tiny, wrinkled girl born into a struggling Manila family and a symbol of the world's population reaching 7 billion people and all the worries that entails for the planet's future.

Danica May Camacho, born in a crowded public hospital, was welcomed with a chocolate cake marked "7B Philippines" and a gift certificate for free shoes. There were bursts of photographers' flashes, and speeches by local officials.

The celebrations reflected symbolism more than demography. Amid the millions of births and deaths around the world each day, it is impossible to pinpoint the arrival of the globe's 7 billionth occupant. But the UN chose today to mark the day with a string of festivities worldwide, and a series of symbolic 7-billionth babies being born.

Danica was the first, arriving at Manila's Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital at two minutes before midnight on Sunday - but doctors say that was close enough to count for a Monday birthday.

Demographers say it took until 1804 for the world to reach its first billion people, and a century more until it hit 2 billion in 1927. The twentieth century, though, saw things begin to cascade: 3 billion in 1959; 4 billion in 1974; 5 billion in 1987; 6 billion in 1998.

The UN estimates the world's population will reach 8 billion by 2025 and 10 billion by 2083. But the numbers could vary widely, depending on everything from life expectancy to access to birth control to infant mortality rates.

In Uttar Pradesh, India - the most populous state in the world's second-most populous country - officials said they would be appointing seven girls born today to symbolise the 7 billion.

India, which struggles with a deeply held preference for sons and a skewed sex ratio because of millions of aborted female foetuses, is using the day to highlight that issue.

"It would be a fitting moment if the 7 billionth baby is a girl born in rural India," said Dr Madhu Gupta, an Uttar Pradesh gynaecologist. "It would help in bringing the global focus back on girls, who are subject to inequality and bias."

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