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Mozambique, 10 April 2018: Providing the right to name every child

Being a father of 2 young boys, there was something special about this field trip to Magude, a district that is located 180 kilometers from my home and work in Maputo City.

Magude was selected to be the one of the very first test sites for the new electronic Civil Registration and Vital Statistics system, a new innovation that is been implemented to streamline and improve the civil registration processes in Mozambique through the use of mobile phones and technology to immediately notify a child’s birth no matter where they are living.

When my first son was born, back in 2011, I already had picked a name and knew the importance of birth registration, but for many children and families in Mozambique birth registration is still a big issue, only 48 per cent of children under 5 are registered (DHS 2011).

A child who is not registered at birth is in danger of being stateless and wouldn’t easily access the government social services, so I made sure to register both my sons before they were 4 months-old (120 days), since I had access to information that told me that registration of children was free for the first 4 months of life (120 days).

But how many fathers and mothers don’t have access to this information? Many only find out about this years later when they try to enroll their children in primary school, where an official document is required.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Fauvrelle
Magude was selected to be the one of the very first test sites for the new electronic Civil Registration and Vital Statistics system.

So, on a very hot Wednesday, we hit the road early in the morning, very few clouds in the sky, high humidity and a strong sun made us company as we traveled by car for 2 hours from Maputo City to Magude.

As we reached Magude our experienced UNICEF driver, José Manhiça, informed us we needed to stop as the bridge was closed. This was a special bridge, very tall and lengthy, as it constructed to be used for both cars and trains, and only had one lane, so we needed to wait to make sure no train was coming. Like Manhiça told me, “If we are half-way through the bridge and a train came our direction, we needed to have a very fast reaction, we either jump to the river with crocodiles, or do a very fast reverse gear with the car.” Luckily, no train was coming.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Fauvrelle
As you enter Magude you are greeted with a special bridge, constructed to be used for both cars and trains.

Magude was a calm district, very few people on the roads during the day since most of the population works in the nearby sugar factory, lots of food markets, as you enter the district the colors that stick with you are green from the large number of trees and sugar plantations and red from the color of the partially destroyed buildings (due to the civil war in the 90’s).

On our way to the conservatory of Magude we had to reduce our speed as we were greeted with a dusty, bumpy road, and finally we walked the final distance, approximately 2 kilometers from the bridge, to the building of the Conservatory of Magude, which was the very first test site where this new and exciting eCRVS system was installed. In 2016, a funding agreement with the Government of Canada, UNICEF, World Health Organization and Ministry of Justice was signed to support the digitalization of CRVS. The eCRVS system was set up and all civil registration staff in the Conservatory of Magude were trained as trainers based on the newly-developed manuals on eCRVS.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Fauvrelle
Building of the Conservatory of Magude.

As we waited for the Director of the Conservatory, I decided to talk with my colleague Paula Sengo, a Child Protection Officer, about the possibilities of this new system. “This new system will bring birth registration closer to the families and children thus avoiding That parents walk long distances, under heavy sun or rain, with their children, to the conservatory to register them. Now they will be able to notify the birth within their community”, and get the registration document at any of the Conservatories said Paula. In my mind, I tried to imagine me carrying my 2 sons and walking 10 kilometers or more under muddy roads, under heavy rains or hot sun, to get them registered, sadly this is the reality of many families.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Fauvrelle
“This new system will bring birth registration closer to the families and children”, says Paula Sengo, Child Protection Officer.

We were later asked to visit the Conservatory and meet with the Director, Mr. Mussa Ussene. When I entered the building, I noticed lots and lots of old books, these books are where they store the birth and death registration information. First thing that came to my mind was what would happen if a fire, rain or intense winds destroyed these books? This made me realize the importance of eCRVS: if the data is digitalized and saved on a central database, no fire, rain or wind can destroy the information of thousands of children and people.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Fauvrelle
Books where they currently store the birth registration information of Magude population.

Mr Ussene, was very welcoming and gave as a guided tour of the Conservatory and explained about being the first test site and how things will change when the system is online and running. He said, “A few days ago, a man who was born in 1975 came here looking for his birth certificate, as he had no ID and needed the certificate to get his ID. So, we needed to spend a great amount of time, looking through all these books, and it was difficult to find his information. With eCRVS, I can easily use the search function and get his data in seconds, so this system will help us work faster and efficiently.”

© UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Fauvrelle
“This new system is welcome, and will make us work faster and more efficiently,” said the Director of the Magude Conservatory Mr. Mussa Ussene.

I also got a chance to talk with one staff who was trained in using eCRVS, Mr Joaquim Mabunda, 30 years old, father of two young girls, and passionate about his work and eager to talk about it. “With training, the system is easy to use, right now I’m inserting information on the system,” said Mabunda. He used a touching example to explain me the impact he sees happening in the future with this system, “when I wanted to marry I found out my wife had no documentation, they were destroyed by some heavy rains when she was younger, so we had to postpone our marriage, and work hard to get her a new certificate and ID. It took some time, but luckily, we got it and now we are married with two children. If this system existed back then, our marriage wouldn’t have been delayed,” said Mabunda with a small smile in his face.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Fauvrelle
“The system is friendly and easy to use with proper training,” said Magude Conservatory staff Joaquim Mabunda.

As we left the Conservatory, I felt a sense of happiness that there is little doubt that the development of this new civil registration and vital statistics system will ensure easy registration for all children, and help many communities in Mozambique to reach universal or near universal birth registration.

As we headed back to Maputo, we had to stop again at the bridge, this time we were informed that a train was coming, and since we didn’t want to swim with crocodiles we decided to wait, and 20 minutes later we saw up and close a train using the same bridge we would cross later, as it crossed/passed flying next to us, and I was close enough to the train to realize the difficult, risky ways parents have to go to register a child at the Conservatory of Magude, the narrow bridge makes it difficult for a parent and his child to cross while the train is coming, now with eCRVS technology this will not be the case any more.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Fauvrelle
I was luckily enough to meet a train up-close on Magude’s very special bridge.

The Canadian Government is supporting, over a five-year period, the programme of the Mozambican Government in the area of Civil Registration and Life Statistics. It’s nice to see so many support, especially from the people of Canada, to make sure that every child has a right to an official identity, a recognized name and a nationality.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Fauvrelle
The Government of Canada is funding the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics.



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