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UNICEF appeals for accelerating birth registration and certification in Liberia

© UNICEFLiberia/2012/AdScott
Two year old Hawa, with her mother Bendu Cole, shows her birth certificate at a birth registration centre in Western Liberia

MONROVIA, Liberia, 11 December 2013 – UNICEF and the Government of Liberia today called for accelerated efforts to boost birth registration in the country. 

 

“Over ninety percent of Liberian children under five are not registered. Officially, they are invisible. This is unacceptable,” said the UNICEF Liberia Representative, Sheldon Yett, at a media conference coinciding with UNICEF’s 67th anniversary.  

 

“How can we work together to help children if we don’t have any official record of their existence and whereabouts?  Birth registration is the starting point in recognizing a child’s identity and helping children realize their rights as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Liberia Children’s Law,” he added.

 

A new global report, Every Child’s Birth Right: Inequities and trends in birth registration, released by UNICEF today reports that the births of nearly 230 million children under-five have never been registered.  Globally in 2012, only around 60 per cent of all babies born were registered at birth. The rates vary significantly across regions, with the lowest levels of birth registration found in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 

 

Liberia (4%) ranks second after Somalia (3%) among countries with the lowest levels of birth registration (see background note). Ten years after the end of the civil conflict, the very low levels of birth registration makes the task of protecting children in Liberia from violence, abuse and exploitation more difficult.

 

In 2010, the government of Liberia revitalized the country’s universal birth registration and certification system with the support of UNICEF, PLAN Liberia, Crisis Management Initiative and other development partners. 

 

“Birth registration levels have increased from the 4 percent reported in the 2007 Demographic Health Survey.  We’ve established birth registration centres in all fifteen counties, and registered over 115,000 children since revitalising the birth registration system in 2010,” said Esther Thomas, the Birth Registration Coordinator from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. 

 

“But that is just a drop in the ocean. With over a million children still unregistered, we are going forward with a new five-year plan aimed at registering all children in Liberia by 2018,“ she added. 

 

District registration officers are now using mobile phone technology to register child births at health facilities and instantly share data to county registration office for printing of birth certificates. The process is being further accelerated with the help of rapid mobile registration teams who are visiting communities, registering births and providing certificates on the spot. 

 

“Birth registration is not just a piece of paper. It is an official recognition of the child,” said UNICEF’s Sheldon Yett. "Birth registration provides critical data that supports robust programmes to address inequities in health, education and social services,” he added.

 

Background note Household surveys are the key source of data to monitor levels and trends in birth registration. In most low- and middle-income countries, where reliable administrative data are often lacking, such surveys represent the only source of this information. The two main household survey programmes that collect data on birth registration are: the UNICEF-supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and the USAID-supported Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Liberia’s 4 percent birth registration rate of under-five children is referenced from the country’s 2007 Demographic and Health Survey. 

 

About UNICEF 

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.   

 

For more information, please contact:

Miraj Pradhan, Communications Specialist, UNICEF LiberiaTel: +231-770-267-110; email: mpradhan@unicef.org

 

 
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