Uganda, 14 December 2010: Uganda modernizes birth registration process
By Anne Lydia Sekandi
KAMPALA, Uganda, 14 December 2010 - When Beatrice Nassanga, 15, a student at Aga Khan High School met with Speaker Edward Ssekandi some months ago, she had a singular mission: persuade him to convince Parliament to declare birth registration mandatory for every child in Uganda.
Beatrice stressed to Speaker Ssekandi that without birth registration, children in Uganda would continue to remain vulnerable.
“Without birth registration our rights as children are threatened with neglect and violence,” she emphasized.
Right to an Identity
Beatrice Nassanga’s heartfelt appeal is all the more impossible to ignore in the wake of the 21st anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was commemorated last November.
Articles seven and eight of the Convention stipulate that every child has the right to an identity and birth registration plays an essential in upholding that right.
Sadly, however, of the approximately 1.5 million babies born in Uganda each year, only one in five is registered under the age of five. Not only are registration services inaccessible to most Ugandans, but registration fees and other hidden costs (such as transport charges) render them too expensive for the majority to afford.
Automating the system
In addition, the current paper-based registration system has its own challenges, as it can take several months from the time a child is registered to the time they receive their birth certificates - particularly for children born out of hospital. According to Augustine Wassago, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF Kampala, this is because the paperwork has to move through several overly bureaucratic stages.
However, this state of affairs will change very soon, as the Uganda Registration Services Bureau moves to automate the registration of births, deaths and marriages, with support from Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) and UNICEF.
“At Uganda Telecom, we have always believed in the importance of ensuring every citizen’s fundamental right to be counted,” says UTL Managing Director, Abdulbaset Elazzabi, who adds, “It is for this reason that we agreed to partner with the Registrar General and UNICEF to introduce an automated system that will ensure that every child’s birth in Uganda is registered.”
Looking to the Future
The Mobile Vital Record System (MobileVRS) that has been developed, virtually does away with traditional paper forms. In the new system, the information is captured and transmitted by mobile phones from the community and by a web-based application from the hospitals and then uploaded directly into a government server that is centrally located and in real time.
According to Edmund Mugerwa, Information Technology Manager at UTL, the advantage of MobileVRS is that it can be used freely with any type of mobile phone, wherever their signal is.
Successful roll-out of the programme will strengthen the case for creating opportunities to harness enabling technologies in other social sectors. This in turn would help to respond to various needs in the community, and most importantly, keep the children of Uganda alive, safe and cared for.
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