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Invisible Children

A girl looks out from her home in an indigenous Baka settlement in the Moungoungui area on the outskirts of the town of Impfondo, capital of the northern Likouala Province. UNICEF supports health, birth registration and other interventions in indigenous communities. - © UNICEF/NYHQ2009-2515/Williams

Every year, up to 51 million children under the age of five are left vulnerable because their births have not been registered.

Registration of children under 5 is almost universal in industrialised countries, but only half of children under 5 have their births registered in the developing world. There are however disparities within countries.

§ A child from the poorest 20 per cent of households is less likely to be registered.

§ Children born into rural communities are less likely to be registered than urban children, as are children born to illiterate parents.

§ Unregistered children are often members of indigenous or minority groups.

§ Children of migrants or displaced people are disproportionately represented among those unregistered.

§ Refugee children are particularly likely to miss out on birth registration as host countries are often unwilling to facilitate birth registration of refugee children born in their countries and even more reluctant to grant nationality to these children.

§ Unregistered children may also be the children of single mothers who are reluctant to register their child out of embarrassment, fear of stigma, or out of a mistaken belief that children can only be registered if the parents are married.

Generally, unregistered children tend to be found in countries where there is little awareness of the value of birth registration, where there are no public campaigns, where the registration network is inadequate, or where the costs of registration of children are prohibitive.

Even in some countries with high rates of birth registration, certain communities are consistently overlooked, and a sustained effort is required to revise this situation.





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