By Badre Bahaji
Counting every child becomes a priority in Chad
Abba Ahmat is 47 and has five children. He is a community teacher living in Ati, in the Batha region. He loves his little town located in the Sahel belt, but above all he loves teaching. As a committed and respected person in his community, Abba has participated in public awareness session about the importance of birth registration: the problem is that most people in my region are poor and illiterate. Even myself, I did not understand the importance of this document.”
The Government’s regional Authority of the Batha Region, the European Union and UNICEF launched in May 2015, the programme ‘Promoting Decentralization and Civil Registration’. The two year-programme aims to strengthen civil registration and decentralization in the region. It will enable local authorities to make registration free and close the gap between rural and urban rates of civil registration through massive communication campaigns.
Abba admits he changes his mind after the discussion: “I found out that it was free in the first five days after birth. When my son Ousman was born on June 7, Ousmane, I left the hospital the day after and went to the city hall to get his birth certificate” he proudly says. ‘I want my children to have more opportunities for their future”.
Luc Ndolentar is working with APLFT, UNICEF partner in the field. He is organizing awareness campaigns in different districts of the Batha Region. “Through public information sessions for civil society organizations, elected officials, village chiefs and religious authorities, we explain that birth registration simply protects children. Initially, the participants did not feel concerned at all. Most of them were not having birth certificates themselves. Yet, we managed to convince them about the importance of civil registration. The fact that the registration is free now was also a strong argument for us.”
In Chad, only 16% of children under the age of five have their births registered. In the Batha Region, rural children are even less likely to be registered and are therefore invisible. They are at risk of being cut off from social services and legal protection, crucial to their survival and futures.
UNICEF’s Representative in Chad, Bruno Maes, underlines the importance of birth registration: ”Birth registration is more than just a right. It is how societies first recognize and acknowledge a child’s identity and existence. Without that simple piece of paper, children who are separated from their families in times of conflict may be unable to provide critical information that would help with their reunification. Together we want to provide a whole generation of children with their rights; not just at birth, but throughout their lives.”
Chad’s greatest resource is its children, representing 55% of the population. Without legal identities, children can be denied access to basic services such as schooling. Without details of their age, they cannot be easily protected against child labour, recruitment into armed forces or militias, human trafficking, early marriage and any form of exploitation.
In addition to protecting children’s rights, birth registration is also considered as an important tool for national and state-level planning, as data collected through birth registration can be used to predict demand for health or education services.