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UNICEF Attempts to Resolve Birth Registration Lapses

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 7 2012 (IPS) - Birth registration, which is considered normal in Western nations, is rare or never recorded in parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 62 per cent of children under five are unregistered ― in South Asia, 64 per cent.

“The challenge is compounded for children in regions facing armed conflict…for children affected by HIV and AIDS…for those with disabilities…indigenous children…refugees,” UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake told a seminar Wednesday.

With UNICEF’s support, governments in 85 countries are demonstrating their commitment to registering every child within their borders. “Together, we’re bridging the gap between these children and the right enjoyed by so many of their peers,” he added.  Last year alone, UNICEF supported the registration of almost 23 million children.

Gambian health clinics, for example, are now integrating birth registration into maternal and child health programmes. This led to a 23 per cent increase in birth registration between 2000 and 2006, UNICEF said.

With the help of technology,  Colombia, Ghana and Thailand are now moving towards computerized birth registration. Uganda is using SMS technology to reach children in remote areas and those not born in hospitals.

Nigeria is also using SMS technology, and has collected data for over seven million births. New Delhi, India, has now achieved universal birth registration of the city’s children using online registration.

“These successes prove that with simple, cost-effective, innovative solutions, we can give children the identity they need ― to access the help and support they deserve,” UNICEF said.

But these successes don’t just appear out of thin air, it said. “They’re created when countries put resources, tools and commitment behind their birth-registration programmes. Political will is essential to provide increased registry personnel,”

Birth registration marks the beginning of a child’s journey in life. It makes that journey safer and more successful. It unlocks the door to health care, education and social benefits. It protects children from exploitation and abuse. It helps them exercise their rights as citizens.

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