Count Every Child

Count Every Child


Count Every Child (CEC) is Plan International’s global campaign to ensure that all children, irrespective of their circumstances, are formally registered at birth. A key identity document, a birth certificate is the fundamental piece of paper that authenticates nationality, place of birth, parents and age. It is the one document from which all other civil rights and the ability to progress through life are derived.

Around 290 million children under the age of 5 are invisible because their births have not been registered. For those of us who are fortunate to have this basic document, it is hard to imagine the difficulties that its absence can create. To give an idea of the problems arising form a lack of a birth certificate, children from birth through into adulthood may not be able to:

  • Enrol in school and take exams
  • Access free or emergency health care
  • Apply for a passport, bank account, marriage licence or mobile phone
  • Work legally
  • Access legal protection in courts of law
  • Claim rights of inheritance
  • Vote

Lack of documentation renders at-risk groups even more vulnerable and equates to invisibility for life, with no recourse to help from the relevant authorities. Without proof of identity and age, children may be subject to:

  • Child trafficking
  • Child labour
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Forced marriage
  • Early recruitment into the armed forces
  • Illegal detention

Crucially, in emergency situations, such as in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the lack of identification prevents authorities and voluntary organisations from being able to reunite families that have become separated. In extreme cases, when fleeing one country for another, it renders identity-less children effectively stateless.

For the countless millions of children in this situation, this is a bleak picture of a lost future and a stunted present.