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Bringing birth registration services to the communities

© UNICEF Mozambique/ Thierry Delvigne-Jean
Celeste Massinga (right) welcomes the arrival of birth registration agents (left) in her village. She is happy because her two year old daughter has just received a birth certificate.

Maputo, 31 August 2007- On a Tuesday morning, dozens of mothers and their children, some also accompanied by their fathers dropped their household and agricultural duties to line up very early in front of the registration services. A mobile unit comprised of two activists and four registration agents brought birth registration to the locality of Macanza, in the district of Marracuene, about an hour and a half drive through sandy and tough tracks from the main road to the village.

Sitting on the sand floor and under the shade of trees, the members of the community patiently await their turn, talking about their lives, entertaining and feeding the children. Even those that could not find a spot in the shade do not leave in spite of the long wait and strong sun. They can not lose the opportunity to register their children.

“Bringing the registration services to the communities is essential. The nearest location where children can be registered is the headquarters of the administrative post, 16 km away. Due to the distance and costs many parents end up not registering their kids”, explained Jorge Nhaca, secretary of the locality of Macanza since 1998, on location following up on the process.

Ernesto Américo Manhiça, for example, came with his partner Celeste Massinga and their four kids so they can all be registered, including himself and Celeste. Lina, his oldest daughter, is 14 years old.

“We could not register the kids nor ourselves sooner because we could not afford it and the registration post is far away. My daughter had problems attending school because she did not have a birth registration and has only been able to attend school because the teachers have been very understanding. But in the future it will become increasingly difficult,” said Ernesto.

In the community, many people are not aware of the importance of birth registration for children’s rights. This is why the activist’s work is fundamental. 

“Several days before the mobile unit comes here, we developed several awareness campaigns in neighborhood meetings, associations, churches, with the community authorities and by putting up posters throughout the neighborhood” said activist Augusto Panguene.

There are no encompassing data on birth registration in Mozambique. However, evidence suggests that the levels of birth registration are extremely low in Mozambique. In 2004, the National Institute for Statistics (INE) conducted a Population and Health Survey at district level that showed that in the five districts in which it was conducted only 6 percent of children under 5 years old had birth registration. The main reason given by mothers for not registering their kids was the cost of the registration followed by distance.

Through the work of activists such as Augusto Panguene (left), community members learn the importance of birth registration. Mothers like Ercília (right) are encouraged to bring their children to be registered.

The officer responsible for the Registries and Notary of Marracuene, Fernando Issaia Neves, explained that actions in that area have been systematically developed.

“Every month we try to bring a registration unit to the different localities within the district. We rely on activists, theater groups and community leaders to mobilize the community and raise the awareness of the population to the importance of registering their children and also for mothers and fathers that are not yet registered to do so as well” said Fernando Neves.

“We also work with Social Affairs officers to identify orphan and vulnerable children to whom we give priority”, he added.

UNICEF in Mozambique supports the actions for the establishment of a sustainable routine birth registration system, supports the activities to accelerate birth registration at national level, supports actions to establish community based social mobilization strategies to raise awareness of families and communities to the importance of birth registration with priority for orphaned and vulnerable children. UNICEF also supports the training of activists, of permanent registration agents and mobile units and the establishment of a data base on birth registration at provincial and national level.

In past years, important steps have been taken to increase access to registration for children. Birth registration is part of the Civil Registration code. In 2004, and taking into account the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by the Government of Mozambique, the Ministry of Justice, with the support of other Ministries, UNICEF and the Civil Society developed a National Plan for Birth Registration, decentralized into provincial and district plans for every district in the Country to raise awareness of the public to the importance of birth registration with a specific focus on orphan and vulnerable children.

The commitment of the Government of Mozambique to register all children is further emphasised through the inclusion of this issue in the Plan of Action for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children and National Plan of Action for Children approved by the Council of Ministers in March 2006. 

At national level, the Government of Mozambique has further conveyed its commitment to providing every child with a legal identity, through the inclusion of the issue of Birth Registration in the Mozambican Government Five Year Plan (2005-2009) and in the country’s second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PARPA II). Inclusion of the issue of birth registration in these key planning documents is a fundamental step towards ensuring that additional resources to scale up birth registration are allocated under the State Budget.



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