Many Cambodian children do not get registered by birth. Sweden has between 2007 and 2009 helped Unicef fund a program, which put 6 million birth certificates into the database of the Department of Identification in Phnom Penh. But to finish the job, the government needs another 5 million USD, said Yin Malyna, Deputy Director of the department in an article by Shaun Turton published in The Phnom Penh Post.
Unicef is now drawing up a 10-year national strategy for Cambodia which should boost birth-registration rates and build an integrated database encompassing identity records for the entire population, recently released tender documents reveal.
“Birth records are very important,” said Unicef community development officer Yi Kosalvathanak in the article.
“It is the only legal identity a child has once they are born; it ensures they get access to education, social support and health care.… It can also protect children from labour exploitation and trafficking.”
Only 62 percent of children in Cambodia are registered which is among the lowest percentage in the region
Among the challenges to improving the birth-registration system, according to Kosalvathanak, is a lack of staff and resources at the commune level, where chiefs or their clerks – who use pens and paper to keep the civil register – are often unavailable.
Many villagers are often unaware of the importance of birth certificates. They are hit with a 10,000 riel ($2.50) fine if they don’t register their newborn within 30 days, while some local officials also exact an unofficial fee on top.
“Many poor families cannot afford to pay,” Kosalvathanak explained.