Population Registry is a Critical Tool for Populace Protection
African nations face a number of ongoing crises on multiple fronts: outbreaks of infectious diseases, human trafficking, civil war, drought and famine – to name a few. Securing borders, safeguarding citizenry and the ability to track the movement of people and diseases are all critical measures when it comes to maintaining national stability in these extremely tumultuous nations. Population registry strategies such as national identification documents and birth and death certificates are effective tools for governments wishing to protect their populations.
There are almost 50 million unregistered children throughout the world, 79 percent of which reside in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, despite birth registration being listed among the Rights of the Child according to both UN treatises and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Failure to register births results from lack of knowledge on the part of parents, but more importantly, lack of initiative on the part of governments. Fears regarding invasion of privacy or discrimination are also factors, especially among HIV/AIDs patients.
Traffickers target vulnerable populations by leveraging their needs for basic necessities like food, money and housing. Traffickers prey on these populations’ weaknesses by making false promises of a better life, making profits with no regard for human safety, dignity or rights. Their “cargo” is just that. Particularly disturbing are the high numbers of child and sex trafficking cases.
Despite intense anti-trafficking efforts by multiple government agencies, NGOs, religious leaders and private citizens, human traffickers are a prevailing problem in Africa. Reports by the United States government estimate that as many as 800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year, the majority of whom are children. Children’s lack of organized registration helps traffickers avoid persecution, as lack of documentation allows them to continue working in the shadows.
A similar challenge exists in the battle against HIV/AIDS. In the absence of a population registry, those suffering from infectious diseases and their survivors are cut off from vital government resources like housing, financial assistance, inheritance rights, education and food assistance. Compounding their vulnerability, these populations become the perfect victims for human traffickers, who capitalize upon their isolation. Population registry data such as death and HIV/AIDS infection rates, as well as the availability of local resources, are all critical to governments seeking to design and implement effective prevention and control strategies.
Shutting Down Vulnerability
Population registry provides government and anti-trafficking task forces with the most important information—a baseline picture of local citizenry. It also provides citizens with important documentation such as birth records, identity cards, and citizenship. The lack of these documents makes people much more vulnerable to traffickers and exploitation.
Once registered, a country’s citizens are no longer invisible. People taken up in human trafficking are no longer anonymous, and local governments and councils can reach out to provide much needed social services like healthcare, education, employment training, housing, jobs and more to marginalized demographics, thereby nullifying the leverage traffickers use to exploit their victims as well as the spread of disease.
Population registry puts governments in touch with their people and people in touch with their governments, forming a protective shield against human trafficking and other forms of exploitation, as well as disease, lack of education and other social woes.