UNICEF Says One-Third of Children Not Registered

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, 20 June 2003

Bangui—About 27.5 percent of children in the Central African Republic (CAR) are not legally registered at birth, which prevents them from having access to schooling and other community services, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said.

A UNICEF specialist in matters of birth registration, Marie Serra, told IRIN on Thursday that the non-registration of children was due to a number of reasons: parents who did not know the importance of the birth certificate, the high registration fees, long distances between villages and places of registration, and the lengthy registration processes. Leon H. Sullivan Summit

On Monday, while celebrating the Day of the African Child, the government delivered birth certificates free of charge to 50 unregistered children. In turn, UNICEF offered to pay for birth certificates for 100 others in Bangui, the capital, at the request of poor mothers.

Serra said that a Plan of Action to tackle the registration issue had been laid down by the government, UNICEF, the UN Population Fund and the French Government's cooperation programme.

Serra said that without the birth certificates, most children would have less access to education, vaccination or later to civil marriage. She said UNICEF had trained agents and sent them to two selected provinces, Ouham in the north and Nana Gribizi in the northwest, to identify unregistered children and to speed up the registration process. She said there were two agents in each village and that the experiment, which has shown good results, would be extended to the whole nation.