The spread of Ebola in Liberia closed schools, overloaded the health system and cut communities off from one another. Everything stopped. When things stop, it’s hard to get them started again and UNICEF knows for children that can have devastating consequences.

Parents too were afraid to enter hospitals to register a child’s birth for fear of Ebola contagion. That fear still lingers for many.

One of the greatest entry points for a child to realise their rights – birth registration – fell away during the emergency, hiding Liberia’s newborns from important protections and social planning.

Women registering her baby's birth with a mobile registration worker
A woman registers the birth of her baby with a mobile registration worker at a community health centre in Liberia. © UNICEF

Data from Liberia’s Ministry of Health has recorded an almost 40 per cent drop in the number of registered births, down to 48,000 last year against almost 79,000 in 2013.
With the common places for birth registrations either closed or running limited services, registrations didn’t happen and the follow-up to register births that occurred during that period has lifted numbers with only 700 children registered up to May this year.

Without being registered at birth, children can miss out on:
  • Health care;
  • Schooling;
  • Legal protections;
  • Being safeguarded against trafficking or illegal adoption;
  • Family inheritances; and
  • Being recognised as a citizen of their home country. 
Countries too miss out on the vital data to plan for routine health care, like immunisation, and to build schools and other services children will need at different stages of their life. 

So, what is UNICEF doing?

UNICEF is supporting a drive by the Liberian Government to register the more than 70,000 babies whose births were not recorded during the Ebola crisis.

Mobile registration workers in Liberia
Around Liberia, mobile workers are registering the births of tens of thousands of babies who do not have birth certificates due to the Ebola crisis. © UNICEF
“Children who have not been registered at birth officially don’t exist.”

“Without citizenship, children in Liberia, who have already experienced terrible suffering because of Ebola, risk being marginalised because they may be unable to access basic health and social services, obtain identity documents and are in danger of being trafficked or illegally adopted,” said Sheldon Yett, the UNICEF Representative in Liberia.

UNICEF will help revamp Liberia’s registration systems before the launch of a nationwide campaign later this year to reach every baby not registered in 2014 and 2015.
“Children are the future of Liberia.”

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