What is BRiE?
As stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children have the right to have their birth registrated, including internally displaced, refugee, and asylum seeker girls and boys. Despite the documented impact that emergency situations have on CRVS systems, birth registration services rarely feature in emergency responses.
All types of emergencies will disrupt or destroy a birth registration system. The extent of the damage depends on the nature and scale of the emergency, and the strength of the existing system to cope with the shock. This will vary depending on the size of the affected population, the type of system (paper-based, online, offline), and the requirements outlined in the laws and policies that legitimise birth registration processes.
Birth registration in emergencies (BRiE) encompasses interventions that promote and improve girls and boys access to continuous, permanent, and non-discriminatory birth registration services in humanitarian situations.
Why is BRiE important?
Unregistered children and children without legal identity documentation are amongst the most vulnerable in an emergency. In an emergency, children and their families will need to prove who they are and often where they come from in order to access assistance and move within and across borders to access safety. A birth certificate provides this official proof.
A birth certificate clearly states a child’s age, the location of their birth, and the names of their legal guardians (parents/caregivers). This information permits certain protections under national and international law. Birth registration and a birth certificate can help a child claim their right to protection and supports the prosecution of child protection cases. Child protection is defined as “the prevention of and response to abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence against children”.
Ensuring children have access to birth registration services before, during and after a crisis can:
- Enable unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) to be reunified with their parents/caregivers more efficiently and effectively, reducing the likelihood of exposure to further harm.
- Facilitate access to entitlements and services, including food, education and health care, in the short and long term.
- Help prevent the trafficking of vulnerable children by proving the identity of a child’s parent or caregiver, and to reunite trafficked children with their communities and prosecute abductors.
- Help protect children from recruitment into armed groups by providing proof of their age and identity, and to prosecute abductors by legally establishing a child’s age at the time of recruitment.
- Help enforce laws relating to the minimum age for employment and assist in efforts to prevent worst forms of child labour.
- Help counter early marriage.
- Facilitate the acquisition of nationality and therefore help prevent child statelessness.
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Who should support and promote BRiE?
Recognising that CRVS is a government mandated responsibility, BRiE is the responsibility of the government registration authority, and those humanitarian actors supporting and promoting the (re)establishment of birth registration services as quickly as possible after an emergency.
Humanitarian actors responsible for supporting and promoting the legal recording of a vital event such as birth, includes:
- Health actors, particularly maternal and child health, i.e. birth attendants/midwives, support birth registration by providing birth notifications and promote birth registration through their regular interactions with pregnant and lactating women and girls in emergencies.
- Child protection actors, i.e. social workers, can declare a birth and support re-issuance of documentation for UASC and children on guardianship orders. They can also promote registration due to their existing engagements with vulnerable children and their parents/caregivers.
- Education can support a birth declaration as a birth certificate is a common requirement for school enrolment and can promote birth registration as access to education is reported as one of the biggest motivations for parents to register the birth of their child.
It is important to remember that BRiE should be a priority of the entire humanitarian response as all humanitarian actors require timely, accurate, and continuous population data for response planning, recovery, and measuring the impact and quality of the assistance provided. Population data is required to:
- Plan and distribute life-saving food, water, shelter, and medical supplies, i.e. vaccines
- Budget for and delivery cash assistance to affected populations
- Accurately record the number and cause of deaths resulting from the emergency.