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Why birth registration is vital

THE inadequate health facilities in communities have for the past decades subjected expectant mothers to giving birth either in homes or on their way to the nearest health centres.
Added to that, because of traditional beliefs, some expectant mothers opt to give birth at home, sometimes at the expense of putting their lives at risk.
The scenario has led to cases where a number of children are not registered at the point of birth.
It is against this background that the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health have partnered to launch the Health Facility Birth Registration Campaign in 177 health centres in Luapula, Eastern, Southern, Copperbelt, Lusaka and Central provinces.
During the launch of the Health Facility Birth Registration Campaign in Chisamba recently, Central Province Minister Davies Chisopa noted that indeed very few individuals have birth certificates throughout the country.
Mr Chisopa pointed out long distances from homes to registration centres, inadequate registration centres and ignorance of the importance of registering births as major contributors.
At the same occasion, Minister of Home Affairs Davies Mwila stressed the importance of a birth certificate.
He said, for instance, it is difficult to protect someone who did not have a birth certificate if, say, they fall prey to child marriages, child trafficking, defilement, child labour and inheritance disputes.
Mr Mwila said birth registration was proof of existence, particularly for children, as they could not get complete recognition in the absence of the document.
He explained that it is cardinal that birth registration is taken seriously as the State requires information on who was born within its perimeters and those that were from another country.
Mr Mwila said it is unfortunate that for a long time, the registration of vital statistics has not received the attention it deserves, especially in developing countries like Zambia.
“But even at global level, it has been established that over 230 million children under the age of five are not registered. About 85 million of these children are in Africa, Zambia inclusive,” he said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs will now review the principle registration Act and work on a s tatutory ins t rument to decentralise certification of birth and death.
Mr Mwila explained that government was aware of the escalating levels of social and economic development which has had a negative impact on the registration and certification of births.
UNICEF representative Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim said birth registration is aimed at ensuring that children are counted and have access to basic services which include health, social security and education.
According to Dr Ibrahim, birth registration provides evidence of a child’s age, and could aid Government in addressing issues to do with child marriages, exploitative labour and child trafficking.
“Birth registration should be decentralised and there is urgent need to sensitise people on its importance. We are supporting Government in this campaign through training of community health volunteers who can inform parents,” Dr Ibrahim said.
For UNICEF, the official recording of a child’s birth by the government establishes the existence of the child under law and provides the foundation for safeguarding many of the child’s civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Article seven of the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that every child has the right to be registered at birth without any discrimination.
Dr Ibrahim is happy that the campaign has so far left a mark after registering 117,231 births which he describes as a positive move.
And Mr Mwila is confident that the partnership between the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health will yield tangible results in the registration of births and deaths of citizens.
He said it is also important to note that with the amendment of the Constitution, matters of citizenship will be assessed in relation to a person’s place of birth.
He appealed to stakeholders and members of the public to join the Ministry of Home Affairs in raising awareness on the importance of civil registration.
Mr Mwila commended UNICEF for its efforts in the protection of children through support to the birth registration initiative.
In Central Province, 37 health centres have been targeted to train health workers and community volunteers to help parents register their children.
“In the last one month, over 100 health workers and 180 community volunteers in all the 37 targeted health centres in the province have been trained in birth registration. I assure [you] that the 37 targeted health facilities are now ready to conduct the campaigns,” Central Province Minister Davies Chisopa said.
Hopefully, this will be replicated in other parts of the country.

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