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Kenya, African Governments urged to initiate effective birth registration

Hands of children behind a UNICEF logo/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11- Kenya and other African governments have been challenged to scale up proven solutions to improve birth registration, if they are to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target on providing legal identity for all, including birth registration.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, less than half of all children are registered in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In a statement, UNICEF said if the current trends persist, with a rapidly growing child population, 115 million will be unregistered children by 2030.

UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Mohamed Malick said lack of registration greatly inhibits governments’ ability to plan, for instance, on how many teachers and doctors their countries require – as a result denying children fundamental rights.

“The fact that tens and tens of millions of children are currently invisible to their governments is discouraging and harmful,” Malick said.

The Fund called for innovation, new approaches to decentralization and digitization can increase overall registration coverage.

In Tanzania, UNICEF pointed out that decentralizing registration from the central registration authority to the local authorities and local health facilities increased certification rates from 10 per cent in 2012 to more than 80 per cent in 2019, in 13 target districts.

West Africa and Central Africa have the lowest birth registration rates in the world at only 45 per cent.

Since 2016 in some districts of Guinea, UNICEF has supported routine birth registration services through health and immunisation platforms, where children born at health facilities and those coming for vaccination during the first six months have been successfully registered.

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In one year between 2017 and 2018, birth registration improved by 100 per cent.

While in four priority regions in Senegal, routine registration of children under one in hospital and health centres has increased birth registration rates by an average of 44 per cent, while the national registration rate only improved by 3 per cent.

“We know that birth registration is essential so that each child counts, and we need governments to scale up services that have shown results and are cost effective,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

“Providing parents with the opportunity to register the birth of their children in health centers represents a major opportunity to improve birth registration alongside routine immunization.”

According to the Fund, by 2050, one in three children under 18 will be African as the bulk of the world’s population growth now occurs on the continent.

As such, UNICEF said birth registration must increasingly become a top priority in Africa, as countries seek to address the dangers of legal invisibility and prevent violations of child rights such as child marriages, child labor, trafficking and recruitment and use in conflict.

“As the Convention on the Rights of the Child turns 30 this year, we need to renew our commitment to ensuring every child has a name and nationality,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“By registering a child from birth, States recognize the child’s individual importance and take a decisive step towards children’s access to learning, healthcare and other essential services. Birth registration also helps prevent exploitation, child marriage, detention and recruitment into armed forces or groups.”

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