Editor's Comment

Birth registration a right

Government complex.

THE proposal by Government to make birth certificates a prerequisite for school enrolment to scale up the acquisition of the document is a welcome move.
It is hugely unacceptable that in a country of about 17 million people, only four percent of people have birth certificates, according to the Zambia Demographic Health Survey of 2013 to 2014.
This means that we have millions of children out there who have been denied the right to be recognised as citizens.
Birth registration is particularly low in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Africa released in 2013, only 44 percent of children under the age of five in Africa were registered and millions more are not protected with legal identity documents.
Ideally, a birth should be registered as soon as a child is born or within 30 days after a birth has occurred.
Citizenship does not begin once one acquires a national registration card when they reach the age of 16 years, but it begins at birth.
Zambia is a signatory to international instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of a Child, both of which recognise birth registration as an undeniable right of children.
One factor that has led to such low registration of child births is the fact that most parents do not feel compelled by law to do so.
Besides, a child who is registered and the one who is not have the same access to social amenities such as education and health.
Another factor, of course, is the fact that in the past, registration of birth was centralised and not user-friendly.
Many parents, especially those in rural areas, found it difficult to access the registry centres, and even when they did, the process was usually daunting.
But now this service has been decentralised, localised to selected health facilities.
Over 600 birth registration desks now exist in health facilities across the country, which has resulted in an increase in the number of registered births.
Between 2015 and 2018, about 450,000 children have been registered, and more than 134,000 births were registered.
We need to do more to motivate or compel parents to register their children than just holding sensitisation campaigns.
Ministry of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Chileshe Mulenga says the presentation of birth certificates during school enrolment will encourage people to understand the importance of obtaining the national document.
And we agree with him.
Birth registration is vital for the country in many ways besides a child having a legal backing to support his or her nationality.
And there are many benefits to having a child registered.
Legally, for instance, it protects a child from being prosecuted as an adult or used as a labourer.
Economically, it provides population data that can be of use to the government for budgetary planning to ensure that resources are better distributed.
Given that it is difficult to fight social challenges such as early marriages, birth registration can help ascertain a child’s age and curb the occurrences of early marriages.
Depending on the circumstance, a further compounding problem arising from the lack of a birth certificate is the difficulty in claiming inheritance following the loss of a parent.
Besides that, it also helps the country in planning.
It is important that parents understand these benefits and take birth registration seriously as a right to the child, and not an option.

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