Children Who Can’t Prove They Were Born

UNICEF reports (pdf) that one in three kids under five around the world – almost 230 million children – has no birth certificate. Ryan Jacobs explains the ramifications of growing up undocumented:

Living without any proof of your existence can be a major challenge. The associated paperwork is often necessary to secure healthcare, education, and other basic rights. And children who don’t have identification are also left at higher risk of displacement, exploitation, and human trafficking. In the chaos of war or disaster, reuniting children separated from their family can be difficult, if not impossible, without proper documentation. And with no formal proof of age, marriage, military service, and employment may all become a reality much sooner than appropriate.

The problem is particularly acute in India, where 71 million children under the age of five go undocumented by the government. Though India leads the world in sheer number of uncounted children, its rate of birth registration—at 41 percent—means that the civil administration there is actually outperforming the bureaucracies in many of the other countries mentioned in the report. Somalia, for example, does not record the existence of a staggering 97 percent of its young children.

Noah Rayman talks to a UNICEF official about what can be done to solve this problem:

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. In Nigeria, similar technology allowed the government to register an additional 8 million previously unregistered children over a 15-month period.