At least 190,000 children in the East Region of Cameroon are without birth certificates, up from 140,000 in 2019, The Guardian Post daily newspaper has reported.
The National Civil Status Registration Office, also known as BUNEC, has recently made a revelation, as reported by the English language daily. In 2023, BUNEC reported that approximately 190,000 children in the East Region were enrolled in Primary Schools but did not possess birth certificates.
Parents are often blamed for not obtaining their child’s birth certificate due to a lack of knowledge or awareness. “I was not aware of the birth certificate procedure since I gave birth within the community,” Josephine, a mother of two, stated, according to Data Cameroon, a statistics agency.
According to MMI’s findings, it was discovered that her two sons, René Ndongmoui and Célestin Esa, who resided in the village of Daïgène in the Mandjou Subdivision of the East Region, were not officially registered in a birth register during the years 1997 and 1998.
Joséphine, their 47-year-old mother, also does not have one.
Based on field experience, community volunteers have confirmed that over 60% of the local population lacks birth certificates.
An official from the East Regional Delegation of Social Affairs stated that the phenomenon is indeed real. That is why we are collaborating with associations to increase awareness among parents, particularly women, about the importance of timely birth registration.
“The phenomenon is real, and it is for this reason that we are working with associations to raise awareness among parents, especially women, to declare births on time,” they said.
While it is true that parents’ ignorance plays a role in the current situation, it is important to acknowledge that the state has also made significant contributions to this issue.
The secondary civil status centres are experiencing a shortage of staff and equipment. Simultaneously, certain secretaries within municipalities are issuing fraudulent certificates to unsuspecting citizens, neglecting to provide them with proper documentation without any worries, according to human rights activist Jean Pierre Akam.
“At the same time, some secretaries in the municipalities issue false certificates without stubs to naive citizens. without being worried,” he said.
It should be noted that the document is free for babies younger than 90 days old.
Older children are required to go through a lengthy process involving officials from the Justice Ministry in order to obtain their birth certificates, which costs approximately 12,000 FCFA.
The ongoing conflicts in the North West and South West regions have led to the displacement of over 750,000 people. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in the loss or destruction of several thousand birth certificates. Consequently, there has been an increase in the number of children without birth certificates in that particular part of the country.