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Birth registration

Today 1 in 4 children under 5 do not officially exist.

Being registered at birth is the first step to gaining lifelong protection and a prerequisite to being able to exercise all other rights. Without it, no individual can access national social service systems such as healthcare, education or justice.

Many children that are born on to the streets do not have their births registered.

Despite being born and raised in a country, they lack formal recognition of their existence. Without this fundamental certificate they have no legal protection and inadequate access to social service systems, schooling, formal employment opportunities, healthcare and few protections against violence, trafficking and abuse.

A birth certificate, issued by national governments, legally records the birth of a person and provides them with proof that they exist.

A birth certificate opens the door to...


  • to healthcare
  • to education
  • to formal employment


  • to a name, nationality and identity
  • to government assistance
  • to legal protection
  • to die with dignity


  • from trafficking and exploitation
  • from under-age military service
  • from hazardous child labour and economic exploitation
  • from child marriage


  • to open a bank account
  • to own property
  • to travel

The global picture

Around the world, millions of children face discrimination, they lack access to justice and do not have their official identities (thorough being unregistered) which all contribute to situations which play a major role in them becoming street-connected.

Number of births unregistered:



Many do not have access to registration facilities.


Lack of knowledge or understanding to the benefits and process of registration.


The high fees associated with registration are often prohibitive.


Traditional customs, beliefs and practices may not encourage the formal registration process.


Formal in law or informal by practice may impose restrictions, such as women being able to register their child without the father attending.


Those born in rural areas are 30% less likely to be registered than those in urban areas – wealth in urban areas increases the likelihood of registration.

Whilst it is legally possible for children to obtain retrospective or replacement birth registration documents, this process is largely inaccessible for street children, as it requires them to present several documents to confirm their identity as well as that of their parent and pay a fine for the delay in registering the birth.

Without their official registration documents a child is invisible to their government, they become extremely visible to those wishing to abuse them through organised crime gangs, sexual exploitation, child labour, child marriage and human trafficking.

A Global Partnership

In 2015 all United Nations Member States adopted The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an urgent call to action for all countries, both developing and developed to provide a better and more sustainable future for all. Goal 16.9 of the SDGs puts the challenge and injustice of unregistered children firmly on the agenda for all organisations working in international development.

Articles 7 and 8 of the United Nations Conventon on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) state that every child has the right to a name and a nationality and it is the responsibility of national governments to ensure this happens.

Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations

Article 7, UNCRC

The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality

Article 8, UNCRC

By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including free birth registration.

Goal 16.9, SDGs

Our birth registration work

Since 2013 Toybox has been working to register street children as a key focus of our work. Since the initial pilot programme in Guatemala, we have started programmes to register children in El Salvador, Bolivia and Nepal as well.

Improving registration services

Today our work focuses not only on the practical action of obtaining birth certificates and official identity documents for street children, but we also work with governments and members of civil society organisations to improve civil registration services through training and the use of appropriate technology.

Raising awareness

We work hard to raise awareness in those countries we work in though running campaigns to raise awareness in communities of the importance of registering births via various channels including TV and radio advertising, press articles and the offer of training to those organisations involved.

In El Salvador


children don’t officially exist

In Guatemala


children don’t have a birth certificate

In Bolivia


of under 12s do not have a legal identity

In Nepal


children have never been registered

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How our birth registration work changed lives


Birth Registration • Guatemala • 2024

“Now I go to school every morning with my two brothers.”

Read Matias' story


Birth Registration • Nepal • 2024

“Birth registration is necessary for us - we must make it so that we can study and make our future!”

Read Rajani's story


Birth Registration • Bolivia • 2024

“It was difficult for many years without my identity documents. I didn't understand why I didn't have my birth certificate.”

Read Anaya's story