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Partnering to Modernize the Birth Registration System in Belize

In Belize, only 6% of children are not being registered at birth, unregistered children most predominantly reside in remote communities, removed from urban centers, where access to social services is difficult. 

In 2011, UNICEF in collaboration with the Government of Belize conducted a national birth registration campaign.  UNICEF alongside the country’s Vital Statistics Unit travelled from north to south, across rivers and streams, hills and picados (narrowly unmapped unsurfaced pathways) to reach children and families in the most far-reaching areas of the country, ensuring that each child’s birth and name was accounted for in the national birth registration system.  Despite the massive effort, there are still families who face barriers to having their children registered. Barriers such as awareness, where they reside, the cost of registering and the accessibility of the service.  In Belize, birth registration in the country is free during the first year.  However, after one year of age, there is a late registration fee.

In 2016, UNICEF embarked on a bottleneck analysis of the current national birth registration process and system.  Recommendations from the report included the need for a digital and efficient operating system, capacity building of human resources managing the service as well as an integrated and coordinated approach with supporting equipment for bedside registration in each medical facility in the country.  With that in mind, the potential impact of our new initiative to modernize the birth registration system represents a real chance for Belize to reach 100 percent coverage in birth registration for children.

Reflecting on the past initiatives and recognizing the real potential for Belize, Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General for Belize remarked, “Alongside our partners, the Government of Belize is making every child count and ensuring that they are accessing all social services. We remain dedicated to modernizing the Birth Registration System.”

Mom and son with a registered birth certificate ©UNICEF/Anna Hoare/UNICEF/2011

With that commitment at the highest policy level, UNICEF now embarks on a new partnership initiative anchored in Articles 7 and 8 of the CRC to strengthen further the enabling environment for registration of all children. In the words of Dr. Susan Kasedde – UNICEF Representative, “In Belize, we are already doing well registering most children at birth. This new partnership focused on closing the gaps preventing registration in our most vulnerable children is exactly what we need right now to get to the last mile and protect and fulfil so many of their rights.”

The Office of the British High Commission in Belize shares this concern for protecting every child and their partnership with UNICEF reflects their commitment to modernizing the birth registration system.  British High Commissioner Her Excellency Claire Evans stated, “Registration is the 'first right' of any child. We believe it is not only important at birth but fundamental throughout life allowing people access to vital services such as the educational system. This exciting partnership demonstrates how countries can come together and help make a positive difference to everyday lives.”

This initiative will focus on developing an action plan and propose strategies that will respond to the recommendations made in the bottleneck analysis for modernization of the national registration system. The partnership includes the Government of Belize, UNICEF, the British High Commission in Belize, and the Embassy for Mexico in Belize. Funding for the development of the roadmap has been provided by UNICEF and the British High Commission in Belize while the Embassy for Mexico will contribute valuable technical expertise.  “The National Population Registry and Personal Identification (RENAPO) is willing to provide Belizean institutions with the required technical assistance and share best practices available within the Offices of Vital Records in Mexican territory,” extended Deputy Chief of Mission, Miriam Villanueva of the Embassy of Mexico.

Ultimately, the project aims to bring the service to the child and parent eliminating current infrastructural, physical and economic barriers.  #ForEveryChild, an identity and protection.

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