Belize Vital Statistics Unit launches campaign to boost birth registration with the support of UNHCR and UNICEF

Birth registration campaign in times of COVID-19 embeds core messaging in the delivery of much needed food and hygiene supplies.

04 August 2020
Birth registration: a newborn's foot is covered in purple ink after being stamped on a birth certificate.
UNICEF/UN032696

BELIZE CITY, Belize, 4 August 2020 — Today, the Belize Vital Statistics Unit, in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UNICEF launched a communication and sensitization campaign to promote birth registration in Belize. This campaign will target some of the most vulnerable people across the country, including children born in indigenous communities, asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

Khandi Cadle, a First Class Clerk at the Belize Vital Statistics Units said, “This work is significant because birth registration and, in extension, a birth certificate, is a child’s first form of legal identity. It’s basically a life-long document to access an individual’s legal and human rights.”

It is commendable that Belize has achieved a birth registration coverage rate of 96 per cent. However, four per cent of people between the ages of 0 and 5 are still not recognized before the law, and therefore unable to enjoy their child and human rights fully.

Children from low-income families and those in rural areas are the least likely to have a birth certificate. For example, children in Toledo District are less likely to have their births registered than other children.

Kerrie Williams, Senior Protection Assistant at UNHCR, said, “As a member of the National Birth Registration Steering Committee, UNHCR is committed to combating incidences that may lead to statelessness, and encourages every step towards the registration of not only every refugee child, but every child born in Belize.”

A birth certificate is a life-long passport for individuals to access legal and human rights, e.g. education, healthcare and other services. Every newborn who is denied his/her right to be registered at birth is denied a nationality. This means he/she can also be denied life-saving medical care, banned from school, and even refused to be given much needed social support grants intended to help the most vulnerable.

Michel Guinand, UNICEF Officer in Charge, reiterated the importance for every child to have a birth certificate: “A birth certificate is a child’s first line of defense against forced marriage, human trafficking and statelessness. Furthermore, quality vital statistics are essential to guide national policies and programmes.”

In 2016, the Government of Belize commissioned a Bottleneck Analysis of Birth Registration to take stock of birth registration practices in the country and devise holistic strategies to strengthen the registration system. This analysis has informed actions towards increasing registration rates, including this campaign.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this birth registration campaign has a strong humanitarian relief component. Instead of a traditional approach with print and digital media, the campaign will embed core birth registration messaging in the delivery of much needed food and hygiene supplies.

The delivery will be accompanied by an appointed official from the Belize Vital Statistics Unit to enable mobile birth registration. Additionally, birth registration booths will be set up at Independence High School in Stann Creek District, Punta Gorda Market, Welcome Center in San Ignacio and select villages countrywide to register children.

To ensure maximum reach, messages will be disseminated in Spanish, English, Q'eqchi' and Mopan Maya with the distribution of relief packages.

A team composed of officers from The Belize Vital Statistics Unit, UNHCR and UNICEF will cover seven villages in the north, three villages in the west and 11 villages in the south to deliver services to those who find it physically and financially challenging to register the birth of their children. The campaign will run from 7 to 15 August.

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Media Contacts

Michel Guinand
Programme Coordinator and Social Policy Specialist
UNICEF Belize
Martina Tomassini
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Belize

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