New Year’s babies expected to live longer, UNICEF says

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UNICEF estimates that Cambodians born on January 1 this year will have an average life expectancy of 81 years. Hong Menea

UNICEF has estimated that nearly 1,000 babies were born on January 1 this year in the Kingdom, and their predicted life expectancy of 81 years is significantly higher than the generations before them.

Marking its 75th anniversary, UNICEF has dedicated this year to “reimagining a better world for children”, noting in a press release on New Year’s day that an anticipated 371,504 babies would be born worldwide on that day to inaugurate the new year.

Over half of those births were predicted to take place in just 10 countries: India (59,995), China (35,615), Nigeria (21,439), Pakistan (14,161), Indonesia (12,336), Ethiopia (12,006), the US (10,312), Egypt (9,455), Bangladesh (9,236) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (8,640).

Bunly Meas, communication specialist for UNICEF Cambodia, told The Post on January 12 that estimates of births and life expectancies in 236 countries and territories were extrapolated based on demographic and household survey data and the UN’s World Population Prospects report from 2019. Complete data is available on their website.

He described conditions which contribute to life expectancy estimates, saying greater longevity is made possible when children are given fair and equal opportunities to survive and grow, including exposure to a preserved and unpolluted natural environment.

“From birth, adequate health care, nutrition, vaccines, education from kindergarten, access to clean water and sanitation, protection from abuse, access to legal representation – these and other services are constantly improving, and if the children born this new year can enjoy the results of this progress, their lifespans may reach the age UNICEF predicts,” Meas said.

Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF representative in Cambodia, welcomed “a thousand beautiful new babies into Cambodia this New Year’s Day”.

She said: “2020 [was] a challenging year for all, especially children. Yet, Cambodia was successful in containing the pandemic and keeping Covid-19 cases lower than most countries, and we are hopeful that the same trend can be maintained.

“Working closely with the government, development partners, and the people of Cambodia, UNICEF will continue to reimagine a better world for Cambodian children to grow up in. Each of them deserves the chance to fulfil their potential in life, and we pledge to work tirelessly towards that goal.”

UNICEF noted that the world still faces unprecedented challenges related to the pandemic, including economic recessions triggered by suspension of civil rights by governments as well as rising poverty and widening income inequality.