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Millions Born Unregistered in Asia Pacific

Newly born babies receive vaccines at a hospital in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region August 10, 2012.

Newly born babies receive vaccines at a hospital in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region August 10, 2012.

About 135 million young children in East Asia and the Pacific have not been registered with any government agency. That leaves them unable to claim national identities. Such identification is often a requirement for rights and government services.

Too many people still live and die without leaving an official record. Government ministers from Asian and Pacific countries will be asked later this year to agree on giving recognition to every child. It would start with registering their births as part of an effort to guarantee civil registration and records for everyone.

The ministers are to meet in Bangkok in late November.

Stephen Blight is the child protection regional advisor for the United Nations’ Children’s Fund. He says the lack of a legal identity can create big problems.

“Increasingly in the modern world, you need to prove your age and you need to prove your identity in order for opportunities to be open to you.”

These include getting such important documents as passports and driving permits, getting a job or dealing with a bank. A lack of identification can be a barrier to getting something as simple as a telephone.

Jonathan Marskell works for the UN’s Economic and Statistics Commission for Asia and the Pacific. He says that for those who are unregistered, it is less likely that their children will be registered.

“And so it creates a cycle of invisibility or under-registration. And this affects particular populations that might be on the margins of society already.”

Recording personal information not only gives the registrants the right to government services. It helps to guarantee their basic rights. It also provides valuable information into the age and the health of the population.

Even records of deaths are important. Understanding why and where people are dying can help fight disease and reduce child deaths. Yet the World Health Organization says nine of every 10 people in Asia and the Pacific live in countries lacking trustworthy death records.

Anis Chowdhury is the director of the statistics division at the UN’s Economic and Statistics Commission. He is making an appeal to the media in developing countries to publicize the registration effort.

“Many people don’t know that they have the right (to registration). And that is an issue media can help us to create the awareness.”

More than 100 developing countries still do not have good, working systems to support detailed records of births and other major life events. The situation is especially serious in Asia.

UN officials admit that people are unable to register themselves and their children in too many places. The reasons for this include corruption, and lack of personnel and record-keeping systems.

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

VOA correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok reported and wrote this story. George Grow adapted and Jeri Watson edited the story for Learning English.


Words in the News

registerv. to record information about someone (or something) in a book or public records system
recordn. a writing that shows proof or facts about something
identifyv. to recognize someone or something and to say who or what they are
guaranteev. to promise a result; to promise that something will happen

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