The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported that nearly 230 million children under the age of five have not had their births officially recorded, excluding them from education, health care and social security.
PANA in New York, quoted a UN statement on a UNICEF report as saying that,’approximately one in three of all children under five who are unregistered or lack proof of registration at birth’.
The report, entitled: ‘Every Child’s Birth Right: Inequities and trends in birth registration’, was released to coincide with the agency’s 67th birthday.
Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, stated: ‘Birth registration is more than just a right. It’s how societies first recognize and acknowledge a child’s identity and existence’.
She said that, ‘registration is also key to guaranteeing that children are not forgotten, denied their rights or hidden from the progress of their nations’.
Ms. Gupta said the report noted that, only around 60 per cent of births last year were recorded, with the lowest levels of registration in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
It also stated that, ‘even when children are recorded, one in seven do not have a physical birth certificate as proof of registration’.
The UNICEF official said: ‘All children are born with enormous potential. But, if societies fail to count them, and don’t even recognise that they are there, they are more vulnerable to neglect and abuse.
‘Inevitably, their potential will be severely diminished,’ she lamented.
UNICEF stated in the report that birth registration not only aids children and their families, but the overall communities and countries.
It also said, in addition to contributing to a country’s civil registry, birth registration also strengthens the quality of vital statistics, aiding planning and government efficiency.
Among the reasons for not registering, the report authors cite prohibitive costs, cultural barriers and fears of discrimination or marginalization.
According to the report, unregistered births are a ‘symptom of the inequities and disparities in a society’.
It said ‘birth of children in rural or remote areas to poor families and uneducated mothers is most likely not to be registered’.
In the report, UNICEF highlights innovative approaches to support governments and communities in strengthening their civil and birth registration systems.
Among such projects supported by UNICEF is the use of mobile-based registration platforms in Kosovo and Uganda, which cut the birth registration process from months to minutes.