Press Releases

The world is facing an epidemic of 'nonexistent' children
By Marco Rubio
CNN.com
June 18, 2015
http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/opinions/rubio-birth-registration/
 
Like many parents, I still vividly remember the day I brought each of my four children home from the hospital.
 
At the time, I thought nothing of one of the basic prerequisites necessary for discharge: filling out paperwork for their birth certificates. As Americans, we take this routine step for granted, but in too many parts of the world today, it is either a nonexistent requirement or one that is not thoroughly enforced.
 
The resulting human catastrophe is that each year, over 50 million children -- about four out of 10 babies worldwide, mostly in developing countries -- are born without any official record of their existence.
 
Overall, UNICEF estimated in 2013 that the births of nearly 230 million boys and girls younger than 5 -- or one in three children worldwide -- have never been recorded.
 
This problem is especially acute for women and young girls in developing nations, where cultural norms and government policies systematically undermine women's rights. This treatment leaves their births disproportionately underreported and makes them more susceptible to human trafficking, sexual violence and other human rights abuses.
 
Over time, weak birth registration systems lead children to be marginalized from society and prevent their access to schools, health care and basic services -- potentially leaving them more susceptible to radicalization.
 
While the problem disproportionately affects people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where basic government institutions are dysfunctional or nonexistent, it is also a major problem in wealthier countries such as China, where the disastrous one-child policy has driven millions of parents of baby girls to conceal their children's existence. Left unaddressed, this problem will have devastating consequences for generations to come.
 
The United States, however, has the expertise and technological might to help confront this issue and make a difference in the lives of millions. By demonstrating our moral leadership and offering our assistance, we can empower the governments and entities that are committed to building a better future.
 
That is why U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and I co-sponsored the Girls Count Act, which removes a significant impediment to progress that millions of children face from the moment they are born. The President signed the act into law on June 12, and now U.S. foreign assistance programs will be required to address deficiencies in birth registration systems in developing countries.
 

 
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