Hermann Namouh, 9, holds his birth certificate, outside Banque Africaine de Développement (African Development Bank) Zanzan II Primary School, in the town of Bondoukou, Bondoukou Department, Zanzan Region. - © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-2487/Asselin
Birth registration is the official recording of a child's birth in a country by its government and establishes the existence of the child under the law.
On the child
The child who is not registered at birth is in danger of being shut out of society – denied the right to an official identity, a recognised name, proof of age and parentage
With no documents to prove how old they are – or even who they are – undocumented children are likely to join the millions of children facing discrimination and the lack of access to basic services such as health and education.
The 'invisibility' of unregistered children makes it more likely that the discrimination, neglect and abuse they experience will remain unnoticed. With no proof of age and identity, an unregistered child will be a more attractive 'commodity' to a child trafficker. They become further exposed to illegal adoption, early marriage, child labour, detention and prosecution as an adult in the criminal justice system or recruitment in the armed forces.
In later life, the unregistered child may be unable to apply for a passport or formal job, open a bank account, get a marriage licence, stand for elective office or vote.
But the importance of registration – or the lack of it – goes beyond the individual.
Without strong civil registration systems, it is virtually impossible to plan or implement effective development strategies. Unregistered children who do not show up in the data are often overlooked in social development planning. They are completely invisible when important policy and budget decisions are made.
And without universal birth registration, a country cannot even be certain of its own birth or death rate.