Birth Registrations Plummet in Wake of Ebola Epidemic
Friday, July 31, 2015
Liberia’s Ebola epidemic may have subsided but its after-effects are still being felt, with tens of thousands of infants going unregistered at birth, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF says.
Liberia had ranked second after Somalia among countries with the lowest levels of birth registration. But just before the Ebola outbreak, progress had been made in reversing this problem, which leaves children at risk of exploitation and raises hurdles to entering the school system.
In July 2010, a decentralised birth registration system was launched by the government, with support from UNICEF, PLAN Liberia, Crisis Management Initiative and other development partners.
In 2013, the births of 79,000 children were registered, representing about a quarter of all new births and a dramatic increase from the four percent in previous years.
But by 2014, when many health facilities had closed or had reduced services due to the Ebola response, the number of registrations fell to 48,000 – a 39 per cent decrease.
And just 700 children are reported to have had their births registered between January and May 2015.
“Children who have not been registered at birth officially don’t exist,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF’s Representative in Liberia. “Without citizenship, children in Liberia, who have already experienced terrible suffering because of Ebola, risk marginalization because they may be unable to access basic health and social services, obtain identity documents, and will be in danger of being trafficked or illegally adopted.”
- Health Care