Each year, approximately 50 million children worldwide are not registered with birth certificates.
Rabat – The African Union and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have recently launched the “No Name Campaign,” in an effort to promote birth registration as a human right to accelerate access to justice.
The campaign calls on African Union member states to take steps toward swiftly implementing a universal registration process for children at birth or shortly after. It also emphasizes an urgent need for African countries to reposition civil registration and statistics that play an important role in creating visibility among the countries’ respective populations.
The two leading organizations say that concerns around a lack of documentation are mounting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as emergency situations rely on statistics to implement proper programs and services, and put children at a higher risk of facing injustice.
Specifically, the African Union and UNICEF are requesting that birth registration services be included in COVID-19 recovery packages, the digitization of birth records to improve accessibility, and for initiatives to register all children without birth certificates.
Each year, approximately 50 million children are not registered with birth certificates worldwide. A vast majority, accounting for 79% of all unregistered births, are in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, the Middle East and North Africa region makes up at least 16% of worldwide unregistered births.
In 2003, Dr. Lee JongWook of the World Health Organization said, “To make people count, we first need to be able to count people.” The recent UNICEF report expands on the former director general’s quote and explains why birth certificates play an important role in securing justice for children by noting that the determination of a child’s age and identity could protect a child’s rights should they fall victim to a crime.
The report also mentions the need for such documentation under circumstances where a child might receive humanitarian assistance, refugee status procedures, school enrollment, or protection against child marriage.
Morocco, a member of the African Union, has made recent efforts to accelerate birth registration and ensure that all children are guaranteed their full rights as Moroccan citizens. In 2017, a campaign to advocate for citizens to abide by national law and register their children moved tens of thousands of undocumented children toward gaining birth certificates.