AU, Unicef partner to improve birth registration

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THE African Union (AU) has partnered with Unicef in a campaign aimed at improving birth registration amid declining figures owing to various factors, chief among them the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the Daily News on Sunday reports.

This comes as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) in its latest report indicated that children in Zimbabwe were failing to access justice owing to obtaining lockdown restrictions and delayed access to birth registration during the Covid-19-induced lockdown.

In a statement, the AU indicated that the campaign, called the “No Name Campaign”, aims at rallying more actions and speedy implementation of commitments by the AU member states towards the universal registration of children at birth and the urgency to reposition civil registration and vital statistics in Africa, to address the indignity of invisibility.

“The launch of the campaign is equally timely as concerns rise on the threat of birth registration rates falling behind amid Covid-19 pandemic.

“In examining the elements of a child-friendly justice system, including the application of a child rights-based approach for realising access to a child-friendly justice system in Africa, the “No Name Campaign” recognises that children whose births are not registered and who lack proof of their age are more vulnerable to marginalisation, discrimination, abuse, and associated protection risks such as child marriage, child labour, forced recruitment to armed groups and forces, and trafficking.

“The campaign not only emphasizes the key role that birth registration plays to prove a child’s entitlement to access justice, but underscores that the ideals in Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, will not be achieved without securing, protecting, and promoting the rights of children as the drivers of Africa’s renaissance,” the AU said.

The AU indicated the regional average of children registered dropped from 48 percent to 44 percent in countries where registration services we closed for a month while in those who closed offices for three months dropped from 48 percent to 36 percent.

“Birth registration in Africa has remained stagnant for a long time, leaving millions of children deprived of their basic right to legal identity. Recent progress has been significant but is not sufficient as only 45 percent of children under 5 are registered.

“In Eastern and Southern Africa, the average percentage of children under five registered is 40 percent. Some countries like South Africa have reached 89 percent, with over 1 million new-borns every year, while others like Zambia are as low as 3 percent. North Africa has the highest coverage of 98 percent,” the AU said.

In Zimbabwe, the government recently gave the green light for the registrar’s office to resume operations after being closed for nearly six months due to the national lockdown.

“The closure of the Registrar-General’s Office, which currently has very few staff working, has resulted in challenges and delays in the age determination for children in conflict with the law who do not have birth certificates who have to remain in detention until it can be confirmed that they are minors.

“Due to the time take to get past security checkpoints child protection partner staff are getting late and sometimes only manage to get to court after the proceedings have been concluded, which makes it impossible for them to provide the required support to clients including survivors of sexual violence and abuse cases (SGBV),” the Ocha recently said.

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