UNITED NATIONS, Dec 12 (TNS):One-quarter of the world’s children are not registered when they are born, leaving them vulnerable and “invisible”, according to The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
This despite the number of registered births having significantly increased over the past decade, the UN agency said, adding that the births of one in four children under-five, or some 166 million children globally, have never been officially recorded.
Too many children are “slipping through the cracks,” Henrietta Fore, the agency’s Executive Director, said.
“A child not registered at birth is invisible – nonexistent in the eyes of the government or the law,” she added.
“Without proof of identity, children are often excluded from education, health care and other vital services, and are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.”
The findings come in the new report, Birth Registration for Every Child by 2030: Are we on track? It was released on Wednesday, UNICEF’s 73rd birthday.
The report analyzes data from 174 countries, revealing that the proportion of children registered globally is up by around 20 per cent from 10 years ago: rising from 63 per cent to 75 per cent.
Much of that progress is attributed to what UNICEF describes as “great strides” made in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
Meanwhile, the majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa are falling behind the rest of the world, with three countries in the region—Ethiopia, Zambia and Chad—having the lowest levels of registered births globally.
UNICEF says it is pressing Governments to take action, in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which call for all people to be provided a legal identity, including birth registration.
Nearly one in three countries will need to step up progress urgently to meet this target as they are home to around a third of under-fives globally.
Lack of knowledge on how to register a child’s birth, but also unaffordable registration fees, are some of the barriers which will need to be addressed.
Traditional customs and practices, such as forcing new mothers to stay indoors, may also be a factor.
The report outlines five areas for action, beginning with providing certificates for children at birth, while also empowering parents to register them.
Birth registration should be linked to other systems to facilitate a child’s right to services such as health care and education, and countries should invest in technological solutions which support birth registration.
Finally, UNICEF has called on local communities to demand birth registration for every child.