A Passport to Protection-
The Right to a Name
In 1989, the United Nations Convention on The Rights of The Child was created, providing a legal framework to help enshrine the rights of children into law worldwide. 26 years on, it has achieved near universal acceptance with 193 countries acceding to it.
In reality the rights of children are far from universally recognised and ongoing challenges face authorities across the world in ensuring that the rights of all children are met. The provision of health, education and social care to all children is dependent on our knowledge of that child’s existence and a key right of all children to have both a ‘name’ and a ‘nationally’ from birth is recognised in the above convention1. Therefore, birth registration can be thought of as a ‘passport to protection’. In addition, accurate determination of population statistics is essential for the planning and provision of these key services.
Unfortunately, the registration of births varies widely between the most and least developed countries, reaching a peak at 98% in Central and Eastern Europe but much lower in Sub-Saharan Africa (41%) and Southern and Eastern Africa (36%)2. It is currently estimated that the births of 230 million children under the age of 5 worldwide have never been recorded3.
Recognised barriers to registration include accessibility to registration facilities and poverty, with richer children and those living in urban areas being more likely to be registered than poorer children and those in rural areas. Another recognised factor is poor knowledge of mothers regarding how to register a child. For example, in Afghanistan, of those children not registered, only 6% of mother’s were aware of how to register them and positive correlations are seen between maternal education level and birth registration in most countries.
Data shows that those children who are born in the presence of a medical professional or have contact with medical services- e.g. through immunisation, are also more likely to be registered suggesting that key interventions occur at these points of contact.
Some improvement has been recognised following the introduction of such interventions and global birth registration levels have increased from 58% to 65% between 2000 and 20103. These include ensuring easier access to registration within rural areas, scrapping of charges for registration and raising public awareness via social media, healthcare, schools, public events etc. However these interventions vary between countries and international efforts continue to be made through organisations such as UNICEF, with the ultimate goal of universal birth registration.