|A nurse records the footprint of a newborn on a chart in the maternity ward of the Union hospital, Beijing. Peoples Republic of China.|
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NEW YORK, 22 February 2005 - Every year the births of some 48 million children go unrecorded. As a result, they are often denied access to health care and education, and they have far less protection against illegal adoption, forced recruitment or trafficking. These unregistered children are often unable to prove their identity, and their rights may go unrealized.
There are an estimated half a billion of these so-called ‘lost children’. At the launch of a global campaign for birth registration, Plan International was joined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in calling on governments to take the action they promised when they signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
|© UNICEF 2005|
|Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking at the launch of the global birth registration campaign.|
“It’s time we made this one of the priority concerns of the international community,” said Archbishop Tutu, speaking in New York. “What happens when you can’t prove your birth or your nationality? It’s about the right to an identity and it’s something that from then on will give you access to the privileges and rights of a citizen.”
Most unregistered children live in Africa or Asia. In South Asia it is thought that 63 per cent of children have no birth certificates while in sub-Saharan Africa more than half of all births are unrecorded.
“Every child has the right to a name and a nationality,” said UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah. “All governments should ensure that they provide for the registration at birth of all children. What happens to children who are not registered? They become invisible - they do not exist!”
UNICEF has been working with Plan International for 10 years and has improved registration rates, particularly in Africa. In Cambodia, where a whole generation was unregistered, 2.4 million have been given birth certificates in the last few months.
Birth registration is also essential for providing reliable information about children’s needs – such as education, immunization programmes and other health services. Without accurate information based on proper registration, it is very difficult for governments to plan and allocate budgets effectively.
Without a birth certificate a child has no legal name, no proof of nationality and loses all protections as a citizen. For those displaced by wars, separated from their families and left vulnerable to exploitation, birth registration is essential.
The campaign to register every child at birth is called ‘Write me down, make me real’.
Senegalese rap artist Didier Awadi helps promote birth registration
Write me down, make me real: The campaign for Universal Birth Registration