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Plan launches Universal Birth Registration in Liberia

A mother displays her son's new birth certificate.
A mother displays her son's new birth certificate.
November 29, 2010

Across Liberia, parents are now able to register their children’s births easily and inexpensively. Plan, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Crisis Management Initiative, has launched a decentralized, computerized birth registration and certification system – the first ever to be used in Liberia.

The program, Universal Birth Registration (UBR), is an important step toward the achieving the fundamental right of every child to a name and nationality at birth.

With only 4% of births registered annually, Liberia ranks second highest globally in unregistered births. UBR aims to increase birth registration and certification for children under-six to 90% in two years. Through the program, all children under-six will have access to free birth certificate.

Facilitating the access

The main hurdles preventing birth registration in the past were the lack of awareness and a centralized process. Birth certificates were issued only in Monrovia, making registration difficult for suburban and rural dwellers that had travel hundreds of miles to the capital. The new process completely removes such impediments, making birth registration and certification easily accessible, even in remote villages.

After registering her child, one rural mother stated “a birth certificate means everything.” Children with birth certificates have more opportunity to access existing services in health and education. By recording births, children are also safer from trafficking and exploitation.

About the UBR

As part of Plan’s global campaign, Plan in Liberia began advocating for UBR for all children in 2007. Following a series of meetings and consultations, a UBR test project targeting north, east, west and southern regions of Liberia was piloted in six counties including Montserrado, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Bong, Lofa, and Grand Gedeh in 2008.

The pilot project focused on informing and educating the public about the birth registration processes and its importance and resulted in training given to 151 health workers and 303 community leaders, traditional midwives and local authorities. After the successful implementation of the pilot, a Joint Implementation Workplan (JIW) to reinstate and decentralize birth registration in Liberia was created and signed by the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Plan Liberia, UNICEF, and the UNHCR.

A key element of the JIW is the UBR Communications Strategy, which Plan supported the development of. The aim of the strategy is threefold: to inform the public about the reinstatement and decentralization of birth registration and certification; to raise awareness about Liberia’s Public Health Law and the inherent right of every child to a name and nationality at birth; and to increase the demand for birth certificates among parents, caregivers, families and communities.

Recently, Vice President of Liberia Joseph Boakai emphasized the important role birth certificates play in the achievement of other rights, accessing opportunities and protection for children who are violated, abused, conscripted into fighting force, or come in conflict with the law. The Liberian Government encourages UBR through Public Health Laws Chapter 51. This law enforces the registration of children within 14 days of birth, making non-registration punishable by a fine.

After much work, with many partners, Plan is helping to realize the rights of the child through UBR in Liberia.

Learn more about Plan's work in Liberia.

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