The Progress of Nations

Home | UNICEF in Action | Highlights | Information Resources | Donations, Greeting Cards & Gifts | Press Centre | Voices of Youth | About UNICEF

Commentary:  The 6 Billionth Baby

The Roll of the Dice

By Carol Bellamy *

During this final year of the 20th century, a child will be born, bringing the world's population to 6 billion. What lies ahead for this 6 billionth baby, no one can say. But for the majority of babies, the risks are high and the odds daunting. Half the world's poor are children. Early death from preventable disease, illiteracy or traumatic conflict often awaits them. For the 6 billionth child and for all children, the odds can and should be better.

Somewhere on the planet this year, a mother will give birth to a very special child.

All babies are special, of course — and in that sense, the child will be no different from the 130 million other new lives that start in 1999, on the very doorstep of the millennium. But this baby's birth will mark the instant that the world's human population reaches 6 billion.

No one knows when or where the baby will arrive. It could be a girl or a boy, the child of a millionaire or — far more likely — the child of a family living on less than a dollar a day. But regardless of where the infant draws its first breath, it will be endowed with the same fundamental human rights as any other child — to life, to protection, to education, to health care, to an adequate standard of living and more.

There is a catch, however. The child's chances of enjoying these birthrights, and of fulfilling his or her potential, will depend on where this baby is born and to whom - and whether it is a girl or a boy.

The odds are not in the child's favour.

 

* Carol Bellamy is Executive Director of UNICEF.

 

Previous | Contents | Continue

Home | UNICEF in Action | Highlights | Information Resources | Donations, Greeting Cards & Gifts | Press Centre | Voices of Youth | About UNICEF