It wasn’t the needles or machines that made Uan afraid to visit the hospital; it was because her birth was never registered.
At 44, Somjit Khanruang, or “Uan”, had lived her whole life “[without] access to anything”, despite being born in Thailand. Her parents had not registered her birth and this had a trickle-down effect on her children; her eldest daughter was also born unregistered. With her second and third child, Uan decided to register them under her sister, a desperate attempt to ensure her children were conferred the rights they deserved.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore describes an unregistered child as “invisible, non-existent in the eyes of government or the law … often excluded from education, heath care and other vital services”
But while the issue of unregistered births is extremely debilitating, it’s also unfortunately rampant. As part of AEF’s efforts to improve the lives of vulnerable Thai and Lao communities living in Ubon, it is engaged in a 5-year partnership with Health and Share Foundation (HSF), with the aim of improving the peoples’ access to health care and legal entitlements, and empowering the community to become more independent.
For Uan, she received financial support to cover the processing fees and transport costs needed to travel to another district for her DNA testing. She was also accompanied by members of HSF who helped ensure the smooth facilitation of the process. The entire application process took nine months: from tests, to admin work, to the wait for approval.
In October 2021, Uan, together with her parents, collected her ID card and birth certificate.
Now, HSF is in the process of helping her register for health insurance and social welfare, which are rights she now has access to thanks to her new ID card.
When asked about the first thing she did with her new ID card, Uan replied, “I opened a bank account—finally.”