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Birth Registration in Emergencies: A Review of Best Practices in Humanitarian Action

By: Plan International

Registering a birth is the first legal acknowledgement of a child’s existence; without proof of identity a child is invisible to the authorities. In many countries a birth certificate is a key document to gain access to basic services and to exercise fundamental human rights.

In emergency situations, a child´s vulnerability to abuse is very high; boys and girls routinely become separated from their families or care givers and are vulnerable to physical abuse, neglect, sexual and economic exploitation, discrimination, gender-based violence and recruitment into armed groups. Birth registration as part of a functional CRVS system can help build a protective environment for children in many ways. Where children are registered and the records are well kept, family tracing for separated children becomes easier as there is documentation of their parents and their origin. In cases of child marriage or the worst forms of child labour, proof of age can help aid children an prosecute perpetrators. Birth registration also offers a degree of legal protection, and can help children claim their inheritance rights.

This report brings together the findings of a literature review on birth registration in emergencies, Plan’s own experiences, and experiences from other agencies. In total, 21 interviews were held with a range of humanitarian practitioners worldwide, and seven case studies of birth registration interventions in emergency situations were conducted.