The UNICEF has on Wednesday called for greater investment in birth registration to ensure every child is counted and visible.
According to the UN agency, despite appreciable progress in birth registration, an overwhelming number of children in The Gambia are without birth certificates, making them “uncounted” and “invisible”.
The continent marks the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Children’s Charter) and UNICEF is calling for greater investment in birth registration in The Gambia.
The Charter was adopted by the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union, in 1990 and entered into force in 1999. The Gambia ratified the Charter in December 2000.
“The Children’s Charter sets out rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, – principles and norms for the status of children,” said Sandra Lattouf, UNICEF The Gambia Representative. “So, as we mark 30 years of the Children’s Charter, we must ensure that no child is left behind, and leaving no child behind starts with recognizing their existence.”
In The Gambia, birth registration has slightly improved in recent years. Between 2010 and 2018, birth registration increased from 53 per cent to 58 per cent (MICS 2010 & 2018). But for children under 5 years, only 32 per cent have actual birth certificates (MICS 2018).
Birth registration is an inherent right of every child set out in Article 6 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: “Every child shall be registered immediately after birth.”
“Apart from being the first legal acknowledgement of a child’s existence, birth registration is central to ensuring that children are counted and have access to basic services such as health, social protection, and education,” Sandra said. “Knowing the age of a child is central to protecting them from child labour, exploitation, and child marriage.”
Given its commitment to the Children’s Charter, The Gambia government continues to invest in the survival, development, and protection of children in various ways. While such investment has translated into strong gains for children, there still exist noticeable gaps in several areas including access to quality education, maternal and child health services, good nutrition, protection from child labour, and sexual violence and exploitation of children.
“We should be proud of our achievements for children,” Sandra said. “But we should also remember that neonatal mortality is on the rise, the school completion rate is dropping, children continue to face violence and abuse, and many are engaged in child labour. These are trends we must reverse to achieve the goals of the Children’s Charter.”
To consolidate the gains made and ensure every child’s rights are fulfilled, UNICEF The Gambia is calling for strong action from the government, partners and local communities to ensure that, every child’s birth and other vital statistics are registered, every child has access quality health care services to survive and thrive, every child is protected from violence, abuse, and exploitation, every child has access to quality and relevant education, every child has access to a child-sensitive justice system and every child has a voice in all matters affecting them.