Timely and accessible birth registration

All births are vital events and must be recorded

Mussammat Rahmatunessa,28, stands in front of her house with the birth certificate of Mohammad Sinhad Hossain, her newborn baby who is just a few months old in Raipur village, East Birgao Union in Sunamganj on 5 March 2014.
UNICEF/UN01460/Adnan

The challenge

A name and nationality is every child’s right

All births are vital events and must be recorded.

Birth registration, a civil process, ensures a child’s right to identity. The information recorded is necessary for government’s planning of national policies.

Birth registration also serves a statistical purpose. Universal birth registration is an essential part of a system of vital statistics, which tracks the major milestones in a person’s life – from birth to marriage and death.

The large gap between access and utilisation of the service is challenging the Bangladesh government’s commitment to improving birth registration.

So far, only 37 per cent of children below age five are registered. As a result, 10 million Bangladeshi children below the age of five do not exist officially.

Birth registration, a free service, must be completed within 45 days of birth, but many parents are unaware of the importance. They usually apply for birth documents just before a child’s school enrolment, usually at age six.

There is still lack of knowledge on how to register a child. This knowledge varies significantly in rural and urban areas. In hard-to-reach areas, many parents fear the cost of travelling to a government office for issuing a certificate. 

Women and mostly adolescent mothers lack access to information on birth registration. Only three out of five mothers of unregistered children report being aware of the service.

But delay and neglect affect the ways children are protected under the law.  

Without birth registration, it becomes difficult to protect children against early marriage and child labour. The police face various problems in determining the age of child offenders or victims in the absence of a birth certificate.

Without birth certificate aiding vital assessment, a child will most likely not qualify for security benefits offered to those below the minimum age for criminal responsibility.

Furthermore, lack of registration of migrants from Myanmar and of Bihari children, is an important concern.

Around 10 million Bangladeshi children below age five do not exist officially

A newborn's birth is being registered at a Union Parishad Centre at Sunamganj
UNICEF/UN01465/Adnan
Anita Rani Das waits in her mother's arms while an official of Sunamganj's Joykalas Union Parishad Information Centre registers the newborn's birth.

Birth registration, a free service, must be completed within 45 days of birth

   

মা ও শিশু

'Timely and accessible birth registration' is a priority under Infants, young children and caregivers, one of the four planned outcomes of UNICEF Bangladesh


   

     

The solution

Birth registrations can strengthen the child protection system

UNICEF works to make access to birth registration easier for parents. It works with partners to have more and more newborns registered as soon as possible.

To ensure timely recording of birth, UNICEF trains health workers to play a role in birth registration.

Health workers are tasked with notifying parents of a newborn child about registration during the first round of immunisation.

The birth is recorded by the local registrar and the certificate is handed over during the second round of immunisation – a system relying on collaboration between separate offices for registration and health.

To further improve performance, UNICEF, in partnership with government ministries, works to ensure free and universal birth registration service in accordance with national legal requirements.

In cities, the government has set up digital centres to register births at ward level. But redistributing registration to the zone level would increase accessibility and reduce the work load of ward offices.

Birth registrations can also aid the strengthening of the child protection system.

UNICEF supports the register general’s office for increasing the use of birth certificates for protection of children against rights violations like child marriage, trafficking and child labour.

More coverage and use of birth certificates by authorities will also ensure security of children in conflict with the law and taking part in migration.

Resources