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Innovative e-Birth Notification System Launched in Namibia

© UNICEFNamibia/2017/T Uukongo
UNICEF Representative handing over IT equipment to support EBN system

by Tapuwa Loreen Mutseyekwa

Windhoek, Namibia – 17 May 2017 - In an effort to facilitate registration of births, the Government of Namibia, together with UNICEF have launched an e-birth notification system. This innovative mode of birth notification, aims to make birth registration more accessible to all Namibians and will support the country in reaching the last 40% of children who are not registered within a year of being born – placing Namibia among the leaders in improved Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in the continent.

The system which was recently launched at the Katutura Hospital in the capital city Windhoek, is being piloted at five more hospitals in three regions, before it is taken to full scale to hospitals – public and private - across the country by 2018.  This process is supported by UNICEF and led by the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia as part of the country’s roll-out of e-governance, through an inter-Ministerial technical working group.

Over 78% of children under-five in Namibia were registered since 2011. This rate has increased yearly, making the country one of those with the highest registration rates on the continent. Despite this current good standing, gaps exist in the registration of infants under one year of age, which has stagnated at around 60% since 2012.

 “Too many children in Namibia are not being registered immediately after birth. These children eventually live for years without a legal identity and without access to the most basic services such as health, education or social protection,” says UNICEF Representative, Micaela Marques de Sousa. “The ease, speed and efficiency of this system, will make the right to identity from birth a reality for all children.”

The e-birth notification system links  hospital maternity wards with the e-National Population Register System (NPRS) based at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.  Nurses who attend to the birth of a child, will immediately capture the details of the child and the mother on touchscreen computer boards, strategically placed within the maternity ward. This information is instantly uploaded to the NPRS database for verification and linked to the parents’ ID profiles.

Having the notification of births linked electronically to the National Population Register System (NPRS), will improve the quality of vital statistics produced in the country.  The system is also a welcome departure from the present mechanism of relying on surveys for estimations of birth registration rates and projections of the numbers of births each year. 

The impact and benefits that this brings for the country are immense, as vital statistics are an important means to provide Government and other stakeholders with reliable and up to date information to assess and plan for the needs and resource of children, in education, social protection, vaccination programs and other health services.  

The e-birth notification system also removes the impasse that was experienced by mothers of leaving the hospital without registering the birth of their child and then being constrained by distances and finances from registering their child later.  It also makes it possible for registration to take place with the mother’s identification details even when the father is not around.

While the Government has made this innovative system available, the onus to access the system remains vested largely in parent’s attitudes and practices towards registration of their child. Some social-cultural norms such as child naming ceremonies and the need to have the father naming the child, sometimes bring delays.  

© UNICEFNamibia/2017/T Uukongo
Ministry of Health official demonstrates how EBN system works

“With all these innovative systems and services closer to our citizens, it remains the responsibility of every parent (both the father and mother) to register the birth of their child immediately after birth,” said the minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Hon. Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana.  “It is your responsibility as parents to defend and protect the rights of the child. I therefore encourage fathers to prepare names of the child well before birth in order for the mother to register the child immediately after birth at the hospital.”

Years of collaboration between the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration and the Ministry of Health and Social Services have perennially proved worthwhile to support the registration of children in Namibia, supported right from the start by UNICEF.

Already the last decade has seen this collaboration at play, with 22 birth registration offices being stationed within the maternity wards of hospitals across the country. This has made it easier for children to be registered before they turn one year old. The e-birth notification system is therefore a progression towards making a legal identity accessible to children.

 “The electronic way of doing things is the way of the world and Namibia cannot be left behind” said the Minister of Health and Social Services, Hon. Dr. Bernard Haufiku. “I encourage all Government Sectors to continuously move towards adopting an electronic way of carrying out business.” 

 

 
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