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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid