UGANDA, 2013. A health worker at Mulago hospital verifies a short birth certificate generated by Mobile Vital Records System (Mobile VRS). At the hospital, birth registration is done using Mobile Vital Records System (Mobile VRS) an innovative technology supported by UNICEF to improve birth registration in Uganda. © UNICEF/UGDA201300583/MICHELE SIBILONI
UGANDA, 2013. A health worker at Mulago hospital verifies a short birth certificate generated by Mobile Vital Records System (Mobile VRS). At the hospital, birth registration is done using Mobile Vital Records System (Mobile VRS) an innovative technology supported by UNICEF to improve birth registration in Uganda. © UNICEF/UGDA201300583/MICHELE SIBILONI

1 in 3 Children Under the Age of 5 Does Not Officially Exist, Says UNICEF.

The problem is extensive and destructive, according to a report released on Tuesday by the U.N. Children’s Fund. Some 230 million children under the age of 5 — 1 in 3 children around the world — were not registered at birth and are, as a result, cut adrift from the government programs, like education and health care, intended to support them.

“Birth registration is incredibly important as the gateway to all other essential services that children and people need in general,” says Erica Kochi, who co-heads UNICEF’s Innovation Unit that is working to develop low-cost technology to identify and report unregistered births. “It’s the first stop to health services, it’s the first stop to education, and as you move forward it’s the first stop to have citizenship and the right to vote.”

Already, UNICEF is working with the Ugandan government to create a mobile system that lets newborns be registered in a matter of minutes and, in the eyes of authorities, brings the children into existence. In Kosovo, where the roughly 5% of unregistered newborns come from some of the country’s most marginalized communities, Kochi’s Innovation Unit developed a way to use mobile phones to allow social workers to report unregistered births.

“Universal birth registration is the ideal that we are working towards,” Kochi says. “I think it can be done very, very quickly. The most important thing is not the how, but it’s the will to do it.”

Read the full article on Time Magazine here

Read more about birth registration:

Reaching the unreached: Innovations and child protection

Adapting child health innovations for the field of child protection

Innovations in partnerships and technology for birth registration

Prototyping birth registration services in Nicaragua

Nigeria – Using RapidSMS for birth registration

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