Cameroon: Birth Certificate - the Passport to Official Existence

Securing the document, which determines one's nationality, is often taken with levity by some Cameroonians. Reason why hundreds of thousands of people today are without birth certificates.

A birth certificate is the first and most important document in anyone's life. Because it is the basis for the issuance of many other official papers later in life. Like the identity card, passport, death registration, marriage certificate, insurance cover, academic certificates ... Above all, a birth certificate not only confers nationality on its owner, but also official recognition by being counted amongst those who live in or belong to a particular nation. Thus, the importance of owning a birth certificate can never be stressed enough. It offers rights to the owner, is useful for economic planning, legal purposes, demographic projections, political decision-making, improved governance, appropriate allocation of resources, health needs ... It was against this background that the National Civil Status Registration Office, BUNEC and the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, from December 3-4, 2019 in Ebolowa, headquarters of South Region, organised a workshop on birth registration. The over 50 journalists and other stakeholders who attended the two-day training came from six of Cameroon's 10 administrative regions - Centre, South, West, Littoral, South West and North West. A similar workshop will be organised later in the month in Garoua, headquarters of North Region for participants from four regions - East, Adamawa, North and Far North. With the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, MICS report putting the rate of birth registration in Cameroon at 66.1 per cent, workshop organisers acknowledged that efforts have since been made to improve the situation. Nevertheless, there is need for concerted action. According to 2019 figures from the BUNEC office in Maroua, about 400,000 people in the Far North Region are without birth certificates. While about 40,000 others risk missing their elementary school leaving examinations this academic year for want of birth certificates. In the West Region, a 2018 survey by the local BUNEC office shows that 64,000 people do not own birth certificates. With 36,000 of them being from Noun Division alone. According to Seraphine Kenko Ngankam, BUNEC head for West Region, the situation is explained by the fact that many people in Noun Division are still ignorant about the importance of owning birth certificates. However, there has been no country-wide survey to determine the number of people without birth certificates.

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