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Philippines welcomes 7 billionth baby Danica

7 BILLIONTH BABY Danica May Camacho, the Philippines’ symbolic seven billionth baby, yawns as she lies on top of her mother Camille after they were wheeled out of the delivery room of Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila on Sunday midnight. The Philippines is now the 12th most populous country in the world with 94.9 million people. RICHARD REYES

As soon as the three pregnant mothers were wheeled one after the other into the delivery room, a group of well-wishers lit a pink candle atop a big chocolate birthday cake.

Five minutes before midnight Sunday, the Philippines welcomed tiny Danica May as the world’s symbolic “seven billionth” baby. Other countries across the globe marked similar milestones with their own newborn infants.

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Amid the millions of births and deaths around the world each day, it is impossible to pinpoint the arrival of the globe’s seven billionth occupant. But the UN chose Monday to mark the day with a string of festivities worldwide.

The Philippines was one of the first countries to declare a seven billionth baby—represented by Danica.

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Ripples of excitement swept through the crammed Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila as thrilled well-wishers congratulated Danica’s parents, 23-year-old Camille Galura and Florante Camacho.

Galura, from Makati City, was the second of the three mothers to be brought to the delivery room but the first to give birth.

Weighing 2.5 kilos (5.5 pounds) and wearing a plum-colored bonnet, Danica was snuggled in her mother’s chest when greeted by a blast of camera lights and cheers from Philippine government and UN officials.

Second child

“She looks so lovely,” Camille whispered as she cradled the baby. It was her and her partner’s second child.

As the symbolic seven billionth inhabitant of the world, Danica also received, aside from the birthday cake, a gift box wrapped in blue, a financial package to help her parents open a general store, a college scholarship grant and health insurance.

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Earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the world’s seven billionth person would be facing an uphill battle if he or she was born on the wrong side of the poverty line.

“Plenty of food, but still a billion people going to bed hungry every night. Many people enjoy luxurious lifestyles, but still many people are impoverished,” Ban said in an interview with Time magazine.

Demographers say it took until 1804 for the world to reach its first billion people, and a century more until it hit two billion in 1927. The 20th century, though, saw things begin to cascade: three billion in 1959; four billion in 1974; five billion in 1987; six billion in 1998.

The UN estimates the world’s population will reach eight 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.

Overwhelmed father

Danica’s father, overwhelmed by the attention and the gifts his newborn child received, didn’t seem to think his new baby was being born into a “cruel world.”

The gifts showered on his family included  P25,000 worth of checks from Puregold, enough for his family to start a small sari-sari store, and a dealership from a direct marketing firm, Natasha.

“I am really thankful to all those who gave us this kind of support,” was all Florante, a jeepney driver in Makati City, could utter.

Florante said he had not expected wonderful things to happen to his family. He came to the hospital huffing at around 7 p.m. Sunday, with some clothes and baby stuff in tow.

His partner arrived at the hospital an hour earlier after she started feeling labor pains. “I had to get some things at home so I just followed here,” Florante said.

Monday birthday

Little did Florante know that five hours later, he would be the father of one of the world’s most publicized newborn babies, whose college education has been assured by the Asian College of Science and Technology.

Danica was also a beneficiary of the “Unang Yakap” program, a source of pride for the goverment-run Fabella hospital, where as many as 900 babies are born on its busiest day.

“Unang Yakap” (First Embrace) is a main component of the Essential Newborn Care protocol, which requires the immediate and thorough drying of a newborn, early skin-to-skin contact with the mother, properly timed cord clamping and nonseparation of the baby from the mother for early breast-feeding.

Galura’s baby was picked over two other candidates to represent the country’s “seven billionth” baby for being born through normal delivery just five minutes before midnight. Doctors said that was close enough to count for a Monday birthday.

6 billionth baby

Ethel Comaling, the first mother to be wheeled into the delivery room, had a cesarean section, making her baby ineligible for the title. The third mother, Yehlen Zambala, took more than an hour past midnight to deliver her baby.

Ugochi Daniels, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative, said having seven billion people in the world was not so much “an issue of overpopulation” or “counting people” but making these people count and ensuring they had access to education, employment and, for women, reproductive information and services.

Lorrize Mae Guevarra, 12, who was declared the world’s symbolic six billionth baby in 1999, was also at the hospital to witness the milestone, and was one of the well-wishers.

A blessing, too

The wide-eyed sixth grader said she hoped that the seven billionth baby would be as blessed as she was.

Like Danica, Guevarra was also born in the hospital, amid cheers. Gifts, including a college grant and a job for her father, Rodelio, were also given her.

“I am happy and blessed to be one of the six billionth babies and I hope the seven billionth will be as blessed,” she said.

Her father, Rodelio, who was given a job as a utility worker at Fabella, said he believed the family of the “seven billionth” baby would be lucky even as the country continued to have hungry and jobless people.

“In the Philippines, the more family members, the merrier and it’s always a blessing to have children,” he said. “I know that the seven billionth baby will be a blessing to her family, too.”

Philippine population: 94.9 million

According to the UNFPA State of the World Population Report, the Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, with 94.9 million people.

It also says the Philippine population remains young with 54 percent aged 25.  At present, 10 percent of Filipino girls, aged 15 to 19, have also begun bearing children.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the “auspicious event” was an opportunity to assess where the Philippines was as a country in terms of addressing population-related issues, particularly health.

“This is symbolic in the sense that we would like every Filipino and, of course, every human being that comes out into this world to be born with dignity and has all the opportunities to be able to achieve to the fullest his or her potential,” Ona said in a speech.

He said the “essence” of celebrating the global milestone was to ensure that responsible parenthood would be promoted in the country, and  the number of unplanned pregnancies among young Filipino women be reduced significantly and promptly.

With the rapid growth rate across the globe, Ona estimated it would take only around 11 years for the world to mark its eight billionth baby.

A warning

Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag said Monday’s birth came with a warning.

“Seven billion is a number we should think about deeply,” he said.

“We should really focus on the question of whether there will be food, clean water, shelter, education and a decent life for every child,” he said. “If the answer is ‘no,’ it would be better for people to look at easing this population explosion.” With reports from AP, AFP

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TAGS: Danica May Camacho, Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, population problem, symbolic 7 billionth baby
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