What’s in a name? Everything.  

Today the Ontario Government | Gouvernement de l’Ontario released the Top Baby Names of 2023. For the fourth year in a row, Noah and Olivia are in the top spots. (Charlotte and Liam hot on their tails!)

We know these are the top names because parents register the births of children – typically within 30 days of the child being born. This is a requirement, a first step before you can get a birth certificate – an anchoring ID for the rest of our lives.

But around the world, many parents cannot afford, cannot reach, or face some other barrier to learning about or accessing birth registration services.

That translates into a hard fact: globally, 1 in 4 kids under the age of 5 officially do not exist.

Here’s what having a birth certificate means to a child:

1. It helps ensure that children’s other rights are upheld including the right to protection from violence. The right to access health care, education and justice systems.

2. Without a birth certificate, kids can’t prove their age. This puts them at higher risk of being forced into child marriage, the labour market; or recruited into armed forces.

3. It can also help protect refugee and migrant children against family separation, trafficking and illegal adoption. Without it, kids are at a much higher risk of “statelessness” – meaning they’re unmoored, nationally. They don’t have legal ties to a country.

4. Without a birth certificate, many kids can’t get routine vaccines or other healthcare services. Some can’t attend school or register for exams, limiting their future job opportunities and continuing the cycle of poverty.

5. In young adulthood, children need official ID to open a bank account, register to vote, get a passport, receive social assistance, buy an asset or inherit property.

Additionally, the information collected from birth registration records helps governments decide where and how to spend money, and what areas to focus on for development programs, such as education and immunization.

UNICEF works hard to ensure that every child is visible and counted. In 2022 alone, we worked with governments and communities to register more than 53 million births and issue birth certificates to 48 million people!

We do this by partnering with governments to strengthen their registration systems: increasing the number of service registration points; developing or updating birth registration policies and technologies; increasing awareness at a community level of why registration matters – done through immunization drives, school enrolments, etc.

For decades, UNICEF has been working to ensure that every child’s existence is counted and protected. Every name – every child – matters. Help us do even more at unicef.ca.

For every child, UNICEF Canada.