Vanuatu: UNICEF launches birth registration campaign as recovery from Cyclone Pam continues

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UNICEF staff and community volunteers in Port Vila, Vanuatu pack school kits with essential school supplies for children who lost everything in Cyclone Pam. © Photo: UNICEF/UNI181303/Waradi

20 April 2015 – Thousands of children affected by the devastation of last month's Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu are slated to receive new birth certificates through a United Nations-supported campaign, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced today.

“Birth registration is an official recording of a child as a citizen by a Government. It is both a right and an important process for child protection,” UNICEF Pacific Representative Dr. Karen Allen said in a press release.

“Without a birth certificate, children, especially the most vulnerable, may one day find it difficult to access essential health and social services, and will find it difficult later on in life to apply for a job, get a passport, vote or open a bank account.”

The campaign, which kicks-off today and will target 7000 children on 15 islands in six provinces, will promote birth registration for children whose births have not been registered and re-issue certificates for those children whose documents were destroyed when Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu in March.

On 13 March, Tropical Cyclone Pam swept through the archipelago, wiping out homes and infrastructure, destroying the electricity network and razing crops in the mainly agricultural country. So far, aid has reached all 22 storm-affected islands of the country, despite significant logistical challenges due to the geographic spread of the archipelago.

The United Nations and its partners have started to provide families with seed kits to ensure long-term food security, and will support the government in restoring community infrastructure and reviving economic activities.

UNICEF Representative Karen Allen explained that the agency was working with the Government and local authorities to ensure that children across Vanuatu have their births registered and to also ensure that children at a disadvantage are included in national-level planning and decisions.

“If children are not officially registered as citizens, they will be vulnerable to exclusion, including remaining uncounted in planning and budgeting,” Dr. Allen continued, adding that the campaign may be the first time in which re-issue of lost birth certificates is part of post-disaster early recovery in the Pacific.”

“This has lasting consequences not only for their wellbeing but also for the development of their communities and countries.”