UNICEF welcomes new Canadian support to ensure world's most vulnerable children officially exist

Increasing birth registration through innovative technologies

VANCOUVER, May 2, 2014 /CNW/ - Today UNICEF welcomed a new $20 million commitment from the Government of Canada to ensure the most vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa have a legal identity.  

"Birth registration is an essential first step in ensuring children can access life-saving health, education and other vital social services," said UNICEF Canada's President and CEO David Morley.  "The Canadian Government's support for this program strengthens its position as a global leader in improving the health of vulnerable newborns and children around the world."

Today's announcement was made by the Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, Minister of National Revenue and Member of Parliament for Delta-Richmond East, British Columbia at the BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre in Vancouver. Nina Grewal, Member of Parliament for Fleetwood-Port Kells, British Columbia also participated in the announcement.

"Thanks to global action, kickstarted by Canada's Muskoka Initiative in 2010, and to be reignited at this month's Saving Every Woman, Every Child Summit in Toronto, maternal mortality rates are declining and millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday," said Minister Findlay. "UNICEF is an important partner in Canada's continuing efforts to save lives and improve the health of mothers and children in the developing world."

In addition to ensuring a child can access vital social services, birth registration allows governments and global health leaders to monitor progress and make informed decisions on policies and programs critical to children's health.

A valid birth certificate is also important to enforce minimum age legislation to protect children from child marriage or recruitment and use of children in armed forces or groups. If a child comes into conflict with the law a birth certificate can protect them from being prosecuted or punished as an adult.

Canada's support is particularly important because investments in birth registration are urgently needed now. One in three children under the age of five – 230 million children worldwide – do not officially exist.

Funding announced today will directly reach vulnerable children in Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal and South Sudan.  Ethiopia has the third lowest level of birth registration in the world with only 7 per cent of children registered.  In Mali and Senegal large disparities exist depending on wealth, parent's level of education and geography.

For example 84 per cent of Malian children are registered in cities but only 34 per cent in rural areas. In Senegal the number of children registered whose mothers have no education is 20 per cent less than children whose mothers attended secondary school or higher education.

In the world's newest country, South Sudan, birth registration is at very early stages and challenges exist due to poor infrastructure and the ongoing humanitarian emergency.

A critical component of the new program announced today is using UNICEF developed innovative technologies that have successfully increased birth registration levels in other countries.

For example, UNICEF alongside governments and private sector partners have implemented MobileVRS, a mobile phone technology that completes birth registration in minutes, a process that normally takes months.  New web-based technologies allow for real-time and seamless integration of data from a number of different health systems and centres. This ensures health workers in the most remote clinics and health posts can transmit birth information into a national registry.

"Canada is at the forefront of the global effort to improve maternal and child health. Our focus reflects the values of millions of Canadians who believe that we cannot stand idle while the poorest and most vulnerable suffer deaths that are easily and inexpensively prevented," said MP Nina Grewal. "Together, with partners like UNICEF, we are working to ensure that all children around the world have access to health care and to build a strong international framework to safeguard children's rights and protection."

Today's announcement comes days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada will host Saving Every Woman Every Child: Within Arm's Reach, an international summit from May 28-30, 2014 in Toronto. The Summit will bring global health leaders together to discuss maternal, newborn and child health progress and actions needed for a final push to end preventable deaths.

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.


For further information: Melanie Sharpe, UNICEF Canada 416-871-7345 msharpe@uncief.ca



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