Only 44 per cent of African children aged under 5 years have their births registered, as many rural African families are so isolated and marginalised that they lack the requisite information and financial means to register their children’s births.
Without a legal identity, these children have no legal right to any kind of protection and as a consequence are at high risk of maltreatment and exploitation. These “invisible children” can be denied basic services such as schooling and, without proof of age, are unprotected against child labour, recruitment into the armed forces and militia, human trafficking and early marriage.
In May 2013, African heads of state came together to find a solution to the problem of unregistered births and resolved to introduce universal birth registration. Universal birth registration, a joint project of UNICEF, the EU, the African Bank, the UN and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, will give every African child legal status and improve the lives of the many invisible African children.
“Africa’s greatest resource is its children,” said Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “Yet the aspirations of the continent can only be truly achieved when children have their rights to survival, development and protection realized. The first step on that road is making sure that every child, no matter where they are, is counted and given a legal identity.”