Africa: 91mln Children Under-5 Don’t have Birth Certificate

ADDIS ABABA – More than half of the world’s 164 million unregistered children under the age of five live in Africa, according to a new statistical update on birth registration.

The joint report, published by UNICEF and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), puts the number of unregistered children under 5 in Africa at around 91 million.

The update was launched on Monday at the Experts Group Meeting of the 6th Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration in Addis Ababa.

The report says nearly half of all African children under 5 are unregistered, but levels vary widely across countries and regions.

Around 20 countries on the continent are on a good track to achieve universal birth registration by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goal target 16.9.

However, substantial acceleration would be needed for Africa as a whole to achieve the target.

Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said a birth certificate is a vital tool to help children access their rights.

“It is the basis upon which they can establish a nationality, avoid the risk of statelessness, access social services, and seek protection from violence and exploitation,” said the regional director.

The latest statistical update shows the poorest children in Africa continue to be left behind as the gap in birth registration between the richest and poorest children widen over the past two decades, particularly in Central Africa.

With sustained progress, the UN says Africa could continue to see fewer unregistered children in the years to come.

As per evidence from UNICEF-supported programs across the continent, a few critical interventions could help to ensure every child’s right to birth registration.

“By twinning birth registration with newborn health and immunization services… countries could see birth registration rates increase dramatically,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

Legal identity for all in Africa – starting from birth – could be a game-changer in closing the global identity gap and fulfilling the promise to leave no one behind.

UNICEF called on African Union member states to revise laws and policies to remove all discriminatory provisions and make registration and certification free.

The states were also urged to take a gradual approach to the digitization of systems while adhering to safe and innovative practices to ensure the universal civil registration of all vital events.

Featured Image Caption: Richard, a 6-month old boy, receives his birth certificate declaration, at the integrated health center in Cameroon in 2022 [Photo © UNICEF/Dejongh]

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