News / Asia

Asian Countries Urged to Improve Child Registrations

FILE - Newly born babies receive vaccines at a hospital in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
FILE - Newly born babies receive vaccines at a hospital in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

An estimated 135 million children under the age of five in the Asia-Pacific region have not been registered by any government agency. That leaves them unable to claim national identities needed for access to rights and critical services. A major push is about to commence to get such children, and those of all ages, a legal identity.

Despite the advent of digital technology and advanced communications, too many people in the Asia-Pacific region still live and die without leaving an official trace.

Senior government ministers from the region will be asked in November to commit to giving recognition to every child, starting with registering their births, as part of a push for universal civil registration and vital statistics.

The ministers are to convene in Bangkok later this year.

The child protection regional advisor for the U.N.’s Children's Fund (UNICEF), Stephen Blight, said in this era, the lack of having a legal identity can create significant challenges as early as adolescence.

“Increasingly in the modern world, you need to prove your age and you need to prove your identity in order for opportunities to be open to you,” said Blight.

These include obtaining such important documents as passports and driver’s licenses, getting a job in the formal sector or opening a bank account. A lack of identity nowadays can be a barrier to obtaining something as simple and essential as a mobile phone.

Jonathan Marskell, a statistics consultant for the UN’s Economic and Statistics Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), said the children of unregistered parents are more likely to be unregistered than those of registered parents.

“And so it creates a cycle of invisibility or under-registration. And this affects in particular populations that might be on the margins of society already,” said Marskell.

Recording personal information not only gives the registrants access to government services, it helps ensure their basic rights. It also provides valuable insight into demographics and the health of the population.

Even accurate records of deaths are important. Understanding why and where people are dying helps fight disease and infant mortality. But, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), nine out of ten people in the Asia-Pacific region live in countries without reliable death statistics.

A regional protection officer for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Nicholas Oakeshott, said more governments are recognizing the value of comprehensive and accurate data.

“You can see a momentum developing here where some of these obstacles that have got in the way of the registration, particularly of births of minority children or children living in hard to reach areas, they're being overcome,” said Oakeshott.

The director of the statistics division at UNESCAP, Anis Chowdhury, is making an appeal to the media in developing countries to spread the word.

“Many people don't know that they have the right [to registration]. And that is an issue media can help us to create the awareness,” said Chowdhury.

More than 100 developing countries globally still do not have functioning systems to support efficient recording of births and other major life events. The situation is acute in Asia, which is home to a large portion of the world’s 15 million stateless people.

“For too long these people they’ve been out of sight, out of mind,” said Hatai Limprayoonyong of the non-governmental organization Plan International, which is a partner for the upcoming government ministers conference organized by UNESCAP.

Other partners are the Asian Development Bank, the International Organization for Migration, UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO.

U.N. officials speaking to reporters in Bangkok on Thursday acknowledged that in too many places, corruption and lack of adequate systems and personnel still prevent people from being able to register themselves and their children.

The four-day meeting of senior government ministers on civil registration and vital statistics to be held in Bangkok starting November 24 is intended to spur action to change the status quo.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs