As the calendar turns to 2021, UNICEF is again celebrating the new lives being brought into the world on January 1. Fiji in the Pacific will welcome 2021’s first baby. The United States, its last. Globally, over half of these births are estimated to take place in 10 countries: India (59,995), China (35,615), Nigeria (21,439), Pakistan (14,161), Indonesia (12,336), Ethiopia (12,006), the United States (10,312), Egypt (9,455), Bangladesh (9,236), and Democratic Republic of the Congo (8,640)

Vietnamese babies will account for 0.8 per cent of the estimated 371,504 babies to be born on New Year’s Day. Their average life expectancy is expected to be 88.6 years. 

While UNICEF welcomes every birth, it signals a growing concern with the disturbing level of pre-birth sex selection in Viet Nam – resulting in a very high rate of sex ratio imbalance at birth, with 111.5 boys per 100 girls, according to the 2019 Population and Housing Census. The practice of sex selection is recognized as gender-based violence, ending a girl’s life before she is born. The social consequences and problems that flow from such birth number imbalances are well documented in countries like China, and UNICEF strongly encourages immediate steps to stop this practice. Viet Nam was listed among the three countries with the highest rate of sex ratio imbalance at birth, behind China and India. 

“This has been a difficult year for all of us, and there is perhaps no better way to turn the page than to welcome new young lives into the world,” said Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam. “With the challenges of 2020 behind us, and the opportunities of 2021 before us, now is the time to begin to build a better world. Every girl and boy born today will inherit the world we begin to build for them—today.

2021 marks the 75th anniversary of UNICEF. Over the course of the year, UNICEF and its partners will be commemorating the anniversary with events and announcements celebrating three-quarters of a century of protecting children from conflict, disease and exclusion and championing their right to survival, health and education.

Today, as the world faces unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic, economic slowdown, rising poverty and inequality, we are reminded that the need for UNICEF’s work is as great as ever.

“There is no more appropriate year than this—the year of UNICEF’s 75th Anniversary—to renew our commitment to each other, and to the young lives who will inherit the world we leave,” said Rana Flowers. “2021 will be a critical year for children, but UNICEF’s three-quarters of a century of delivering results for children around the world are a testament to what we can accomplish together.”

Khac Kien