A ‘young’ country on the move

Country Programme 2006-2010

The new UNICEF representative in Albania

Related information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child


Mr Palm's speech during the round table on the findings and recommendations for electronic registration of child births in Albania held on 21 June 2013

Somehow, it is difficult for me to get to grips with the fact that for the last four years I have been attending meetings and conferences on birth registration, and so little seems to have changed for children that continue not to be registered.

This is a challenge for the authorities, the media, and the public. We are not in Afghanistan, or Somalia. Albania is a moderately wealthy nation, in the heart of Europe, with great ambitions. Still, several hundred of children are excluded every year from the most significant human rights that are guaranteed by international law and by Albania’s domestic law. This has been subject of the recommendations by the Committee on the Rights of the Child – which deplored lack of progress – or during the EU consultation chaired by Pierre Mirrel – and endless efforts by donors, partners and civil society.

Exclusion starts at birth. If Albania wants to be an inclusive society worthy joining Europe, it must ensure that no child gets excluded on the day she is born.
What is needed to get this done? First, political will. Everyone in this room wishes to make universal birth registration happening. This message must translate into the commitment of authorities and politicians. We must keep up the pressure.

Second, we need to find new solutions. Einstein said that only fools repeat over and over again the same thing and hope for different outcomes. Thankfully technology allows us to try something new. This is what today’s meeting is about.

To get to the bottom of the problem, we commissioned a mapping of all health facilities where children are born. We checked the number of deliveries in those facilities, their registration practices, whether they have electricity and internet.

The first surprise was that virtually all 34,000 births in 2012 happened in 37 maternity homes. Another 217 birth happened in another 23 health centers. 53 health centers across the country did not have any birth in 2012. So we are really dealing only with 60 facilities. Only a small percentage of health workers were notifying registry offices, and many were using outdated manual forms. We also mapped and geo-tagged all civil registry offices, which are responsible for issuing the birth certificates.

Let me explain geo-tagging. This is the visualization of an office or facility on a map. The maps can be customized; they can show the health centers and registration offices in relation to the communities that they serve. It is a different way of seeing things and relationships. We can see where a problem is and where the nearest solution is. It helps supervisors to bring order and sense in a large number of units, or to identify trouble spots.

The experts will shortly tell us the exact technological and scientific findings and recommendations. There also will discuss how to deal with the very few births that don’t happen in health facilities. I just summarize a few points:

Albania can have an affordable digital system where the birth of any child is immediately notified to the registry offices. Digital means fast, real time, information processing. It also means ease of use.

The proposed system is not too costly. It will unify the data that is currently processed by different institutions. It will help tracking unregistered births.
The Ministry of Health will be the ministry to put in place the digital system and to upgrade the skills of the staff, who report and use the system. Health workers must be held accountable for recording births and feeding data to the civil registries.

Health workers are also accountable for the reporting of births out of maternity. The study found that many nurses do not report births out of maternity wards even if they know about them.

Importantly, we need a clearer responsibility of social workers. Social workers must inform the community chief and health worker, who are authorized to issue birth reports, and make them aware that a birth happened out of maternity. A reform of social care service is underway, but other actors need to cooperate.
By the way, we now have all the addresses and contacts of all relevant health and civil registration offices. The mapping makes it especially easier for managers – I hope a few of them are among us today – to monitor the functioning of the system.

So the news of today is that we can solve the technological, or communication or practical problem. The question of political will is one that Albania must decide for itself. I trust there is enough energy in this room, and what comes out of these conclusions, that those accepting the burden of leadership after the elections will decisively act on the issue.



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