Digitizing birth registration is about adding value, not isolated solutions

By Liana Barcia 10 August 2015

A mother registers the birth of her child in a maternity ward in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite many countries having the legal provisions to facilitate the timely registration of births, 51 million newborn children are left unregistered every year. Photo by: Benoit Almeras / UNICEF DRC / CC BY-SA

Governments exist to provide citizens with basic services, such as education, health care and protection. But what happens — and what can be done — for the most vulnerable populations when countries lack adequate civil registration and vital statistics systems to identify and account for all of its constituents?

Birth registration is the realization of a child’s right to an identity and nationality, as declared in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its importance is underscored in the post-2015 sustainable development goals, which state that “by 2030, [countries should] provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.” A birth certificate often serves as a child’s ticket and gateway to important — often lifesaving — state services, such as medical treatment and vaccinations and enrollment in public schools. As proof of a state’s legal recognition of their existence as members of society, this official document can also protect children from trafficking, child labor, child marriage and other forms of abuse and exploitation. Upon the death of a parent, it acts as legal proof for inheritance and in disasters, it is often the only hope that children separated from their families have of a reunion.

Aside from helping provide and facilitate these legal protections, a reliable and comprehensive CRVS system has statistical benefits. Governments can determine priorities and create more appropriate and effective health, economic and social policies when data on numbers of births and deaths, as well as causes of deaths, among other things, are updated, secure and reliable.

“Addressing inequities or protection of marginalized groups is not possible in the absence of population data,” Milen Kidane, a child protection specialist at UNICEF, told Devex. “Nor can good governance, human rights and the rule of law be achieved.”

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About the author

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Liana Barcia

Liana is a Manila-based reporter at Devex focusing on education, development finance and public-private partnerships and contributing a wide range of content featured in the Development Insider, Money Matters and Doing Good newsletters. She draws from her experience in business reporting and advertising to generate coverage that is engaging, insightful and relevant to the Devex community.


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