More than 1 in 4 children under 5 years is unregistered in South Asia, according to latest data
KATHMANDU/ DHAKA, 6 June 2023 – More than 100 civil registration professionals from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka came together today in Dhaka to call for greater progress in registering children at birth.
At the meeting, supported by UNICEF and ESCAP, experts will review progress to strengthen civil registration and vital statistics in South Asia, highlight the successes, lessons learned, and identify promising initiatives in the region.
“A birth certificate is more than just a certificate. It is a basic right for every child in South Asia and the passport to their future. Not only does it safeguard children by giving them an identity, but it also allows every child the right to use health, education, and other critical social services,” said Noala Skinner, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, a.i. “We must invest in a world where every child, no matter who or where they are, can get registered as soon they are born.”
According to the latest estimates, South Asia accounts for nearly one-third of the total number of unregistered children worldwide. Over 50 million children under the age of five in South Asia, or 1 in 4, were not registered in 2021 - depriving them of the right to an identity and access to social services.
Although countries in the region have made progress in registering more children, widespread challenges for parents remain. These can range from difficulties in using registration points, to complex procedures to register children, especially for ethnic or language minorities.
“A universal civil registration record is an essential source of data for vital statistics on births and deaths. Governments require these statistics to design, implement and monitor public policies,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “By investing in civil registration and vital statistics, we can ensure the monitoring of progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The need for timely, accurate data used by policymakers and trusted by the public has never been clearer.”
South Asia is on track to meet goals of universal and responsive civil registration and vital statistics systems by 2030. However, additional investments are required to accelerate progress to reach every child before 2030.
UNICEF and ESCAP are calling on every country in South Asia to:
- Strengthen the role of health systems in registering children, by enhancing collaboration between civil registration and health and immunization systems.
- Enhance digitization of systems while ensuring safe digital practices, data protection and confidentiality.
- Increased public financing for civil registration and vital statistics systems.
- Address inequalities in civil registration by removing barriers and ensuring equitable access, regardless of background and location.
The Sustainable Development Goal Target 16.9, which calls for a legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030 is key to advance the 2030 commitment to leave no one behind. As a step towards that commitment, governments proclaimed 2015–2024 as the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Decade, a shared vision to allow everyone, including children, to benefit from civil registration and vital statistics systems.
To work towards this vision, UNICEF supports the implementation and scale up of birth registration services through enhanced collaboration between the civil registration and health sectors; works with partners to scale up innovative approaches; and supports the shift towards digital systems. ESCAP provides support to countries to implement the Regional Action Framework on CRVS in Asia and the Pacific; supports them in monitoring progress; and offers support to countries on the implementation and use of civil registration and vital statistics systems and products.
For more information, please contact:
Sabrina Sidhu, UNICEF South Asia, +919384030106, [email protected]
Kavita Sukanandan, ESCAP, [email protected]
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) works with UNICEF Country Offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to help to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfil their potential. For more information about UNICEF’s work for children in South Asia, visit www.unicef.org/rosa and follow UNICEF ROSA on Twitter and Facebook.
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the most inclusive intergovernmental platform in the Asia-Pacific region. The Commission promotes cooperation among its 53 member States and 9 associate members in pursuit of solutions to sustainable development challenges. ESCAP is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations.
The ESCAP secretariat supports inclusive, resilient and sustainable development in the region by generating action-oriented knowledge, and by providing technical assistance and capacity-building services in support of national development objectives, regional agreements and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ESCAP also provides support to partners at the national level. ESCAP’s national offer is rooted in and linked with the implementation of global and regional intergovernmental frameworks, agreements, and other instruments.