Emmanuelle is barely 10 months old. Babbling away cheerfully in her mother’s arms, she is one of the day’s youngest visitors to Plan International’s program office in Cameroon.
Danielle, 38, has come to the office to collect her daughter’s birth certificate. Emmanuelle was born in March 2016, after her parents fled from civil war in the Central African Republic and settled in Cameroon three years ago.
Just two weeks after Emmanuelle was born, her birth was registered, thanks to a social urban program implemented by Plan International and partners. The main objective of the program is to ensure that refugee children living the cities of Yaounde and Douala are able to access their rights to education, health, and protection by becoming registered citizens of the country where they reside.
Emmanuelle is one of the lucky ones. Thousands of newborn refugee children in Cameroon are unregistered.
“Most of the refugee population fail to register for a birth certificate,” said Plan International Cameroon’s Refugees Social Program Manager Antoine-Marie Bieteke. “Thousands of children are born and grow up without having a birth certificate. The situation is worse for girls because many parents think that investing in a girl is a waste of time, since she will not need to go to school but will end up in marriage.”
Among the refugee population registered with Plan’s social program, 10 out of 100 children do not have a birth certificate. Seventy percent of unregistered children are girls. Since the start of the program in December 2015, all newborn babies, without exception, have been issued a birth certificate.
Working in collaboration with parents, health centers, and civil registrars, Plan has facilitated the issuing of 198 birth certificates to newborn babies, of which 110 are girls and 88 boys. Training has also been provided to the refugee population on the importance of obtaining a birth certificate.
“Women and girls of child-bearing age, as well as pregnant women, were the main target of the awareness-raising team,” Danielle said. “They come to the health facilities during antenatal visits and have discussions with us. After my baby was born, I was given a birth registration document. Two weeks later, I got a call from Plan International informing me that my baby’s birth certificate was ready.”
Plan is also making sure that parents, specifically mothers, understand how to register their children on their own. Using step-by-step instructions, parents are encouraged to register their children within the legal timeframe of six months.
Having a birth certificate is a fundamental right for everyone.