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Save 50 children from statelessness in SouthAfrica

by Lawyers for Human Rights
Save 50 children from statelessness in SouthAfrica
Save 50 children from statelessness in SouthAfrica
Save 50 children from statelessness in SouthAfrica
Save 50 children from statelessness in SouthAfrica
Save 50 children from statelessness in SouthAfrica
Save 50 children from statelessness in SouthAfrica
Save 50 children from statelessness in SouthAfrica
Save 50 children from statelessness in SouthAfrica

With your contribution Lawyers for Human Rights' Statelessness Project assisted 2 babies to be added to the liver donor list for life saving surgery. The babies, both approximately 1 year old, were denied life-saving treatment for liver failrue due to the fact that they did not have birth certificates. 

1 year old Lungile* was denied a birth certificate, because his South African parents could not afford the R2100 necessary for DNA tests required by the Department of Home Affairs. LHR was able to arrange urgent DNA tests and use your Global Giving donations to pay for the tests. Lungile's birth was registered and is now being processed for surgery which will save his life. 

8 month old Katleho's* mother's passport had expired shortly before her birth. The Department of Home Affairs refused to register her birth before her mother's passport was renewed. Unfortunately, her mother cannot travel to renew her passport, because Katleho needs regular treatment in preparation for the operation. She is still breastfeeding and her mother cannot travel without taking Katleho with her. Lack of a birth certificate means Katleho's mother cannot travel with her. After negotiations with Home Affairs, Katleho has been registered and is now in line to receive a liver. 

A baby with liver failure may live up to 2 years, but the longer one waits to operate on them, the weaker they get, making the surgery more likely to be fatal for the baby. The strict requirements for birth registration caused these 2 babies to be unregistered, risking their lives. LHR is working on several strategic litigation cases which will make birth registration universally accessible to all children in South Africa. 

Every child born in South Africa has the right to a birth certificate from birth. A birth certificate is crucial to establishing the child's nationality in South Africa or in the country fo their parents nationality. Section 28 of the Constitution protects every child's right to a name and a nationality from birth. 

Since our last report, LHR has advised 60 children, 24 of whom are under the age of 4. 

We thank you for your contrubution towards these childrens' lives. 

*Not their real names


Children placed at Door of Hope
Children placed at Door of Hope

Dear donors

Your donations have funded the litigation which ensured that 33 children finally got their birth certificates this month. Here is how it happened:

33 abandoned children were on a waiting list to get birth certificates for the last 18 months. A Home Affairs policy allowed only 2 children to be registered by social workers per month in the late registration of birth process. This caused a backlog of 33 unregistered children in child and youth care centres (CYCCs) across Gauteng. The children were left in limbo, unable to be adopted.

Abba Specialist Adoption and Social Services, a designated child protection organisation, provides child protection and adoption services to children in need of care and protection in the Gauteng area. They legally admit vulnerable and abandoned children in approximately twelve CYCCs in the province, pending a Children’s Court investigation which will allow the child to be placed in care, obtain a birth certificate and ultimately be considered for long term permanent solutions if the child could not be reunited to his biological family. For many abandoned children, adoption can ensure permanent family care. Without a birth certificate the crucial and lengthy process of adoption cannot commence.

Any delay in the birth registration process significantly decreases the child’s chances of being adopted and forming a healthy bond with a primary care taker, which may cause significant developmental problems for the child in future. Should the Home Affairs practice be continued, the last of the children on the list would only be registered in 2 years’ time. The crucial developmental phase for establishing bonds is between the ages of 0 and 2 years. If the child is not adopted as soon as possible after abandonment the child runs the risk of developing attachment disorder. Children who are not registered soon after birth also run the risk of becoming stateless (without a nationality).

Abba, represented by LHR’s statelessness project, approached the High Court in Pretoria last month asking the court to make an urgent order compelling Home Affairs to register the births of all the children within 30 days. We requested the court to declare that all abandoned children must be registered and issued with birth certificates within 30 days of being presented to Home Affairs.

Fortunately, the Department of Home Affairs agreed to register all the children and to discontinue the practice which caused the delay. As of last week every child was issued with a birth certificate and can now be placed according to his unique permanency needs. This significant success for each child will mean the difference between a safe home and secure family environment and a lifetime of difficulties and emotional distress.

LHR and Abba welcome this outcome as it promotes the best interest of the child in line with the Constitution. We urge Home Affairs to prioritise vulnerable children in all provinces to ensure that they are safe and do not endure any further trauma.

For more information please contact:

LHR: Liesl Muller at 011 339 1960 or

Abba: Rene Ferreira at 012 342 6145 or

Mary and her children at court
Mary and her children at court

Dear donors

We are excited to fill you in on our plans to help stateless children in 2019. With your help we can make sure that these children have a secure future. 

In 2018 you helped us raise $7652. This means we exceeded our initial goal of $5000! To get an idea of the kind of work we did last year, follow the link below and read the story about Mary, her 4 children and 2 grandchildren who got citizenship after their court case was succesful in 2018.

In celebration of 2018's successes we have decided to increase our goal to $20 000!

This new goal will allow us to provide DNA testing to approximately 140 children or pay for residence applications for more than 200 vulnerable children. It can also help us pay for court applications for children without other options.

The aim of these interventions is to secure the idenity, official documentation and citizenship of stateless children in South Africa. With a birth certificate they can access schools and hospitals and be eligible for adoption and other important solutions for abandoned and orphaned children.

To donate on a monthly basis follow the link below.

We look forward to sending you an update of the first successes of 2019!


We are pleased to report that we reached our initial goal of $5000 towards our childhood statelessness project.

We have since moved up our goal to $10 000 and we have crossed the $7000 line.

This is fantastic news for children at risk of statelessness. We have been focussing on assisting children in need of care and protection, but we are also providing legal assistance to children who are cared for by their families.

Since the start of the fundraising in June, 76 children have been assisted with access to a nationality.

Eight children are currently undergoing DNA tests to link them to their South African families with our assistance. Once the results are ready they will be able to register as South African citizens. Some of them have been undocumented for years!

Thirteen children are currently being represented in court in order to ensure that they have access to their citizenship.

We will be arguing a matter in court in the next few months which seeks to find discriminatory sections of the Birth Registrations Act unconstitutional.  The aim is allow single fathers to register their children to ensure universal birth registration. The outcome should be available before the end of the year,

We are also planning a case which will challenge the constitutionality of requiring DNA test results for the purposes of birth registration. Watch this space!

Your support has made this possible. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. 


If you would like to keep this work going you can always become a monthly donor. This will help us to keep doing the work we do. Follow this link and select donate monthly:


Children are tired of being the future, they want their rights NOW! Let's end childhood statelessness together.


With thanks,

Liesl Muller

Lawyers for Human Rights Statelessness Project


About Project Reports

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Organization Information

Lawyers for Human Rights

Location: Pretoria - South Africa
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @LHR_SA
Project Leader:
Liesl Muller
Pretoria, South Africa
$8,456 raised of $10,000 goal
130 donations
$1,544 to go
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