Thousands of children affected by Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu will receive new birth certificates through a national campaign launched this month by UNICEF and the Government of Vanuatu - via the Ministries of Justice, Internal Affairs and Youth and Sports.
The campaign, which will target 7000 children on 15 islands in six provinces, will promote birth registration for children whose births have not been registered, and re-issue certificates for children whose legal documents were destroyed when Cyclone Pam stuck Vanuatu four weeks ago.
An estimated 500 children are expected to have their births registered for the first time during this campaign while close to 6,500 children will be re-issued with new certificates.
“Birth registration is an official recording of a child as a citizen by a Government. It is both a right and an important process for child protection. Without a birth certificate, children, especially the most vulnerable, may one day find it difficult to access essential health and social services, and will find it difficult later on in life to apply for a job, get a passport, vote or open a bank account,” UNCEF Pacific Representative, Dr. Karen Allen said.
“We have been working with Government to ensure that children in Vanuatu have their births registered, helping the Government to plan and allocate resources for children, and also ensure that children at a disadvantage will be included in national-level planning and decisions; this may be the first time in which re-issue of lost birth certificates is part of post-disaster early recovery in the Pacific,” Dr. Allen added.
The campaign will begin on Monday 20 April, on the islands of Tanna, Tongoa, the Shepherd island group and Epi in Tafea and Shefa Provinces. Mobile registration teams equipped with a laptop, printer, generator and laminator will facilitate new birth registrations and re-issue certificates on the spot in these locations.
Erromango (Tafea Province), Efate (Shefa Province) and Malampa and Penama Provinces will roll out their campaigns over May and July.
UNICEF is also working with the Vanuatu Football Federation through the Just Play programme to support the birth registration campaign by holding two-day sports festivals in targeted locations to reach around 20,000 people with information about the importance of birth registration and other emergency-related issues. These will be also be supported by SMS texts promoting the campaign, which will be sent to communities in coming weeks.
Vanuatu has made steady progress in birth registration rates in recent years. Between 2013 and 2014, birth registration rates for children under one year increased significantly from 40 to 60 per cent. UNICEF is appealing to communities to take advantage of the new campaign, ensuring that this momentum is not lost.
“If children are not officially registered as citizens, they will be vulnerable to exclusion, including remaining uncounted in planning and budgeting. This has lasting consequences not only for their wellbeing but also for the development of their communities and countries,” Dr. Allen said.
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