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© UNICEF/Burkina Faso/2008/Tarpilga C.
Thanks to birth registration campaigns carried out in the remote areas of the country, these children from Weogtenga’s village could be enrolled in school at their right age

Burkina Faso: Accelerating Birth registration

By Jean-Jacques NDUITA

Ouagadougou, 3 May 2009- Like in many other developing countries, millions of children in Burkina Faso are not enjoying fully their rights, including access to basic social services. They make their way through life, impoverished, abandoned, malnourished and uneducated. They are simply in danger of being forgotten as they have gone unregistered. Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right to have his or her birth registered.
To address this crucial issue affecting the children the Government of Burkina Faso – in partnership with UNICEF and other partners –early last week  launched a massive free birth registration campaign targeting five million of its 14.07 million inhabitants with a focus on children between 0-18 years old..

Out of sight, out of mind… out of reach

Over the past three years, Burkina Faso has made considerable progress in increasing birth registration. The last National Population Census in 2006 estimates show that 63, 7% of children under five have been registered in Burkina Faso, compared to 33% in 2003. Despite these flattering figures, glaring disparities still prevail among various population groups concerning birth registration, especially among the most vulnerable children. The same Census shows that 60% of girls have not been registered at the Registry Office. An estimated 36% out of 8 million of children under 20 do not have National identity cards. Geographical inaccessibility – most of people in rural areas, especially live at least 10 km away from the nearest registry offices, the high cost of birth registration, understaffed public services, illiteracy and poor outreach communication are  major underlying causes of this situation.
Apart from being the first legal acknowledgement of a child's existence, registration of births is fundamental to the realization of a number of rights and a number of practical needs, including providing access to healthcare and immunization. Birth registration also ensures that children enroll in school at their right age, as well as it enforces laws relating to minimum age for employment and enrollment in the army, assisting efforts to prevent child labour and child trafficking, and encounters forced marriage of young girls before they are legally eligible without proof of age.

© UNICEF/Burkina Faso/2008/Van Der Velden M.
More opportunities of blossoming fully are given to this baby registered at birth. She stands a good chance of being protected from exploitation and child labour.

Reaching out to children missing out

The Government of Burkina Faso will work on a decentralized basis to make sure the most vulnerable child of the remote area is not out of reach.“Registry offices will be provided additional equipments and financial supports to face the growing number of demands that might stem from the recently-launched campaign” said Burkinabé Prime Minister, Tertius Zongo at the launching of the campaign. On the other hand, emphasizes will also be put on awareness raising to inculcate birth registration systematic mindset among populations. “This is another purpose of the campaign”, he added. The Ministry of Human Rights has been tasked to establish birth certificates for every Burkinabé and foreign child born in Burkina for twelve months.

UNICEF and Plan International, among others have joined forces to make this
12-month national campaign a reality, and are actively involved in its implementation and monitoring. «UNICEF will definitely accompany the Government of Burkina Faso in its tremendous efforts to issue birth certificates to the most vulnerable children», said UNICEF Representative in Burkina, Hervé Périès. “It is in line with our continuous efforts to help Burkina Faso develop well informed policies and plans, and in decentralization”.
 In 2008, a UNICEF-supported initiative made it possible to issue 132,000 birth certificates for children.

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