Hundreds of millions of children ‘lack any record of their birth’

Published: 16/Sep/2017
Source: The Independent (London)

“They could end up invisible,” says Joanne Dunn, a child protection specialist with UNICEF

Would a 15-year-old girl be married off by her parents in violation of the law? Would another girl, who looks even younger, get justice after an alleged statutory rape at the hands of an older man?

In their impoverished communities in Uganda, the answers hinged on the fact that one girl had a birth certificate and the other didn’t. Police foiled the planned marriage after locating paperwork that proved the first girl was not 18 as her parents claimed. The other girl could not prove she was under the age of consent; her aunt, who’s also her guardian, has struggled to press charges against the builder who seduced and impregnated her.


Uganda is a potential success story as well, though very much a work in progress. UNICEF child protection officer Augustine Wassago estimates that the country’s registration rate for children under 5 is now about 60 percent, up from 30 percent in 2011.


The West African nation of Mali is another success story. It’s now reporting a birth registration rate of 87 percent — one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa — despite a long-running conflict involving Islamic extremists.


In Somalia, wracked by famine and civil war, the most recent registration rate documented by UNICEF, based on data from 2006, was 3 percent — the lowest of any nation.

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Themes: Identity Documents, Birth Registration
Regions: East Africa, Somalia, Uganda, Mali
Year: 2017