Thimphu Bhutan, 1 January 2019 – An estimated 35 babies will be born in Bhutan on New Year’s Day, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health said today. Globally, it is estimated that 395,000 babies to be born on New Year’s Day.
In cities around the world, revelers will welcome not only the New Year with great festivities but also their newest and tiniest residents. As the clock strikes midnight, Fiji in the Pacific will most likely deliver 2019’s first baby; the United States, its last. A quarter of all babies will be born in South Asia alone.
Around the world on January 1, families will welcome countless Alexanders and Ayeshas. But in several countries, many babies will not even be named as they won’t make it past their first day.
In 2017, about 1 million babies died the day they were born, and 2.5 million in just their first month of life globally. Among those children, most died from preventable causes such as premature birth, complications during delivery, and infections like sepsis and pneumonia, a violation of their basic right to survival. In Bhutan too, it is estimated that about 250 babies died in the first month. Out of the 250, half of the deaths were due to complications related to prematurity.
“This New Year Day, let us all make a resolution to fulfill every right of every child, starting with the right to survive,” said UNICEF Bhutan Representative, Rudolf Schwenk. “We can save these babies if we invest in training and equipping health workers so that every newborn is born into a safe pair of hands.”
Over the past three decades, Bhutan has seen remarkable progress in child survival, reducing the number of children who die before their fifth birthday by more than half. This is evident from the reduction in the infant deaths (from 102 to 30 per 1,000 live births ) and under-five mortality rate (from 162 to 37.3 per 1,000 live births ) since 1984.
“This means that many more children are celebrating their fifth birthday than decades ago, and many more mothers survive pregnancy and delivery-related complications to celebrate it with them,” said Minister of Health, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo. “Despite this significant improvement, there has been slower progress to reduce newborn deaths.”
The deaths of children within the first four weeks of life is still high (21 per 1,000 live births). It contributes to about 67 per cent of infant and 56 per cent of under-five mortality.
“The main challenge for us today is to reduce the deaths of children within the first four weeks of life. Two out of three babies who do not make it to their first birthday die within the first 28 days, most of them during the first 24 hours,” said Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Dr Karma Lhazeen. “We must work together to ensure that preterm and low birth weight babies have a higher chance of survival with interventions such as Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC) and Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC).”
Of the 35 babies born on New Year’s Day in Bhutan, it is likely that five of them would be either pre-term or low-birth weight. These babies have only 40 per cent likelihood of survival, if they are not provided special care and timely treatment.
UNICEF Representative said that all partners – Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF - must continue to join forces to continue expansion of EENC and KMC in the country with investments in Point of Care Quality Improvement (POCQI) interventions.
In addition, UNICEF’s Every Child Alive campaign calls for immediate investment to deliver affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and newborn. These include a steady supply of clean water and electricity at health facilities, the presence of a skilled health attendant during birth, ample supplies and medicines to prevent and treat complications during pregnancy, delivery and birth, and empowered adolescent girls and women who can demand better quality of health services. Partnership and coordination at all levels - health facilities to communities and within government, CSOs and UN agencies - would create an enabling environment to ensure that every pregnant woman completes her minimum eight visits to the health facility, institutional delivery and four postnatal visits.
Today, on 1 January 2019, the revised Mother and Child Health Handbook including the first-ever Child Development Screening Tool (CDST) will also be launched. This will allow health workers to detect disabilities in children on time. In addition, the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) for children under five years will also be introduced in 2019.
All these interventions will ensure quality new born health in Bhutan.
Notes to Editors
For complete un-rounded estimates on births and life expectancy for 190 countries, click here. For Bhutan, the numbers are slightly different because of the recent national survey in 2018. For the data, UNICEF worked with the World Data Lab.
The estimates for the number of babies born draw on the period indicators and the life tables of the UN’s World Population Prospects (2017). Building on these datasets, World Data Lab’s (WDL) algorithm projects the number of births for each day by country and their corresponding life expectancy. Similar methods were applied to compute the number of babies born in specific US and international cities as well as the regional estimates. Other data sources include UN Data, different US governmental services, and national statistics across several countries.
For top ten baby names across 20 countries and number of births across 26 cities, click here.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.