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Botswana, April 2016: Mobile birth registration initiative a dresses challenges in the Okavango area

Inadequate resources, unreliable public transport and inaccessible roads has over the years made it difficult for Torebera residents to register their children upon birth.

Thirty one-year-old Ruth Movoka is among the parents whose children were never registered at birth because of limited resources. Between Torebera settlement and Shakawe, where most government services are accessed, lies the long and wide Okavango River. A huge ferry carries villagers across the river, to and from Torebera.

“It is quite expensive to travel to Shakawe and its so difficult when you don’t have relatives on the other side of the river who provide accommodation for an overnight stay,” says Movoka. “The opening hours of the ferry also makes it difficult for us.” Movoka decries the long queues at civil registration offices that results in some of them being returned without any help. She adds that most of the parents in Tobera and surrounding village fail to register their children as they don’t have the economic means to travel long distances to access birth registration services.

“Our children have been seriously disadvantages they can’t even participate in sporting activities at school because of the absence of birth certificates. I had a tough time registering my niece for the government grant for the orphans as she did not have birth certificate,” Movoka explains.

She is not only raising her two kids, she had to raise her four siblings upon the death of her parents and none of them had birth certificates at the time. Narrating her ordeal, she states that the death of her parents complicated things as she had to depend on relatives to confirm the birth dates of her siblings.

As she tells her story, she stares silently in the air and quickly dashes to the house to get a birth certificate which she recently got through the UNICEF Campaign dubbed Let your child be visible, Register your child today.

In order to address the birth registration challenges in Okavango district, UNICEF joined hands with government of Botswana to roll out a mobile registration initiative aimed at addressing shortfalls in the country’s birth registration rates. The campaign focused on improving birth registration processes by piloting mobile registration facilities. Through the initiative, children were registered and had their certificates issued on site. About 5,000 children were registered on site.

Child Protections Specialist, Ben Semmomung, explained that they worked closely with civil society to mobilise communities, especially mobile communities to register their children during the campaign. Semmomung added that the traditional leadership played a pivotal role in encouraging communities to register. They selected the area as it has complex issues that impedes communities from registering their children. “The response has been overwhelming and we are quite excited. As you know, birth certificate gives one a sense of integrity, it affirms your belonging to a nation. In fact, it is the only thing confirming if a child is Motswana. Not only that, it opens doors for many opportunities, including access to social amenities,” said Semmomung.

Birth registration is a permanent and official proof of the existence of a child, which is essential for respecting her rights and satisfying her practical needs. Birth registration helps to ensure access to basic services such as immunization, health care and school enrolment.

The Children’s Act of 2009 provides birth registration as the fundamental right to every child born in Botswana. However indications are such that not every child is registered in Botswana. The latest reports from Botswana National Population and Housing Census 2011 indicated a birth registration rate of 75 per cent, while the 2012 Vital Statistics Report put the figure at 76.6 per cent.

 

 
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