|UNICEF Representative in Malawi Carrie Auer and Deputy Minister in the Office of the President and Cabinet Nicholas Dausi speak with a mother waiting to register her child, at a maternity hospital in Malawi.|
By Kusali Kubwalo
LILONGWE, Malawi, 30 March 2012 – This week, Malawi celebrates the start of a universal and compulsory birth registration process.
At a ceremony marking the event, Nicholas Dausi, Deputy Minister in the Office of the President and Cabinet, said the issuance of birth registration documents will guarantee Malawi’s children full protection against trafficking, child labour, child prostitution, early marriage and other abuses.
Birth registration will ensure that there is an official system for verifying the ages of children and will, therefore, help enforce existing laws. “Above all, for us to develop, we must know where we are. For us to grow, we must plan. For us to plan, we must know how many we are,” he said.
The Deputy Minister also commended UNICEF and Plan International for promoting the well-being of Malawi’s children by providing financial and technical support for the national birth registration system.
|UNICEF Representative in Malawi Carrie Auer and Deputy Minister in the Office of the President and Cabinet Nicholas Dausi watch as a women receives her child's birth registration document at Bwaila Maternity Hospital in Malawi.|
Speaking at the event, UNICEF Representative in Malawi Carrie Auer said UNICEF is convinced that the birth registration system, if implemented and enforced effectively, will contribute greatly to improving the protective environment in Malawi. Ms. Auer appealed to Malawians to support birth registration to ensure the process is successful.
“This we can do by encouraging pregnant mothers to deliver babies in health facilities, where they can obtain birth reports. We can also ensure that children born outside health facilities are provided with birth reports when they report for their first immunization,” she explained.
Compulsory birth registration
The National Registration Act was passed in 2009, completing five years of efforts to review its legal framework. The Act makes birth registration compulsory and universal. UNICEF had encouraged the government to devise a modern and cost-effective system in which children are registered within six weeks of birth.
The system formalizes an institutional arrangement between the National Registration Bureau and the Ministry of Health. It also integrates birth registration into immunization and antenatal care programs, with the aim of reaching up to 95 per cent of children who make it to their first immunization.
With UNICEF’s support, priority will be given to the registration of the most vulnerable groups of children. These include girls at risk of sexual violence and trafficking, children in institutional care, those with disabilities, and those at risk of child labour.