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700 Children Get Birth Certificates – In Fight to End Statelessness in the World

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The call has been made to consider “nationality as a right” and to “allow children to gain the nationality of the country in which they are born if they would otherwise be stateless”. The call was made by the President of the Liberia Council of Churches, Bishop Kortu K. Brown during a birth registration awareness initiative facilitated by Church Aid Inc. (CAI) in collaboration with the World Council of Churches, Liberia Council of Churches, Bureau of Vital Statistics of the Ministry of Health and LRRRC on Friday, September 27, 2019 at the New Water in the Desert Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Brewerville, Montserrado County.

About 700 children under the ages of 12 were registered and presented Birth Certificates at the ceremony which included awareness sessions on the definition, Causes, Challenges and Prevention of Statelessness; and the Importance of Birth Registration. The program which is a built up to the 5th Commemoration of World Statelessness Day on November 4, 2019 included the participation of fifteen (15) Christian and Islamic schools from the Brewerville/Virginia District of Montserrado County. The schools previously participated in training sessions facilitated by Church Aid and the Ministry of Health on the importance of birth registration and the filling of the birth certificate application forms. The schools helped their children to fill in and return the forms to Church Aid for onward submission to the Ministry of Health for processing before the presentation ceremony

Participating schools from the Brewerville/Virginia school district in rural Montserrado County included Mother Tegeste Stewart Apostolic Pentecostal School, Michael A. Petty Elementary School, Jarflor Classic Academy, Kahatan Arabic and Islamic School, Cradle Kids Foundation, Ahtiram Institute, New Creation School, Liberia Islamic Mission, El-Shaddi School System, Faith Academy, Better Day Foundation, Ophelia Hoff Saytumah School, Brewerville Assembly of God, Salem Baptist School, and Seat of Wisdom School

During the first awareness session on the definition, causes, challenges and prevention of Statelessness in the world, the Senior Protection Officer of the Liberia Refugee, Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) recalled the three (3) pledges that the Government of Liberia has acceded to, including the strengthening of Birth registration, passage of the Alien and Nationality Law and the adoption of a National Action Plan on Statelessness. He emphasized the need for the Cabinet to adopt the National Action Plan which includes seven (7) main action points to enable the country adequately participate in the global campaign to end statelessness.

For her part, the Coordinator of Birth Registration at the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Esther G. Cooper defined birth registration as the official recording of the birth of a child. She encouraged parents who accompanied their children to take interest in the registration of their children birth to avoid future embarrassment. The program called for the reformation of laws that prevent mothers from passing their nationality children on an equal basis as fathers, elimination of laws and practices that deny children nationality because of their ethnicity, race or religion; and to ensure universal birth registration to prevent statelessness

The United Nations launched the annual commemoration of the #IBELONG CAMPAIGN in 2015. The intent of the commemoration is to draw attention to the plight of about ten-million persons in the world who do not hold citizenship or nationality in any country of the world. More than one million of these victims are reported to be in Africa with West Africa having the largest concentration of stateless persons on the continent. One of the principal causes of statelessness is the lack of documentation i.e. birth registration, etc.

The intent of the commemoration was to provide messages on how child statelessness can be prevented, to include allowing children to gain the nationality of the country in which they are born if they would otherwise be stateless; reformation of laws that prevent mothers from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers; elimination of laws and practices that deny children nationality because of their ethnicity, race or religion; and, ensuring universal birth registration to prevent statelessness, amongst others.

During the program, participants including parents of children recipient of birth certificates advanced several proposals to help increase access to birth registration, to include the need for the Legislature to consider the reduction of birth certificate fees for poor families with several children, the need for more community centers, adoption of national plan of action, amendment of the alien and nationality laws to allow women to transfer their Liberian nationality to their children, strengthening of birth registration awareness, amongst others.