ARS-Armenia Tackles Issue of Unregistered Births

YEREVAN (A.W.)–As part of its humanitarian mission in the realm of social service, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Armenia, in close cooperation with UNICEF and UNHCR, conducted sociological research from September to December 2009 on the pressing issue of unregistered children in Armenia.

The research—implemented with the assistance of the Armenian Ministries of Territorial Administration, Labor and Social Issues, Justice, Healthcare, and the Passport and Visa Department of the Police—intended to reveal and provide legal assistance to unregistered children by streamlining the birth registration system throughout the Republic of Armenia.

The project intended to pursue its objective by identifying procedural gaps impeding birth registration, to pinpoint the causes and effects of the problem, to create statistical data, and to develop preventive measures based on the findings. In the process, the project aimed to raise and improve parents’ awareness on the importance of birth registration.

During their research among 1,330 households of Yerevan and the Gegharkunik and Shirak regions, ARS interviewers discovered 126 unregistered children from 97 families, and 19 children in childcare institutions. The research targeted, among others, the homeless, the socially disadvantaged, households in border areas, families living in hostels, refugee households, as well as orphanages and special schools.

According to the interviewees’ responses, the absence of a birth registration had caused some serious problems in obtaining child and social benefits, securing essential documents, attending school, receiving treatment at polyclinics, or getting a passport to travel abroad, not to mention the fact that unregistered children run a higher risk of becoming victims of violence, abuse, and trafficking.

Upon realizing the importance and seriousness of the matter, the majority of parents concerned have applied to corresponding offices to register and obtain a birth certificate for their undocumented children.

The importance of this ARS initiative acquires particular significance on the eve of the nationwide population census in the Republic of Armenia planned for the year 2011.

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