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UNICEF to support birth registration in five more districts

birth registration, a right to an identity
© UNICEF Uganda
A mother carries her new born baby in hospital. She had her baby registered right after delivery.

By Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi

UNICEF is supporting the scaling up of birth registration services and issuance of birth notifications for children under 5 years, in the districts of Masaka, Kayunga, Kanungu and Rubanda In these districts, birth registration services are currently offered only in hospitals.

Once the children are registered, they will be issued with a birth notification record, which will then give them an opportunity to access a birth certificate from the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA).

Operational in 135 hospitals and 80 out of 116 district local governments, birth registration through Mobile Vital Records System (MVRS) is ensuring that no child is left without an official identity and legal protection. MVRS is an automated registration service, launched in 2011 with support from UNICEF. The addition of the five districts will bring the number of districts providing birth registration services to 85.

During a recent media field visit to the districts of Masaka, Rakai and Lwengo, it was discovered that children without birth certificates or those that are not registered are likely to miss out on a number of government services like education, health, justice for children among others. The team also learnt of children who had received services like education grants, ARV support, fast tracking of court cases and stopping of a child marriage case as result of their parents having secured birth certificates for them.

Augustine Wassago, UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist (Identification & Registration) says extending the service to the five districts will involve supporting NIRA to orient the duty bearers at district, Sub County and town council levels, and providing resources like registration materials, computers, and data for internet to use.

He also added that once the service is established in a district or hospital, the rest of the population aged over 5 years who might not have birth certificates can access it.

“What this means is that UNICEF will be facilitating these districts to provide this service to all children below 5 years,” he explained. In the districts where this service is offered, UNICEF supports home-home visits to enable them clear the backlog of children below 5 years who are not registered, Wassago expounded during the visit.

The LC 5 Chairman Masaka district Jude Mbabali welcomed the good news of extending the service to the district.

He underscored the importance of the service and narrated how he once intervened in the Makerere University quota system where students purportedly born in Masaka were admitted for the scheme. Mbabali explained that the said students did not have proper identification to prove they were born in the district and hence disqualified. The quota system was introduced by government to address the imbalances in admitting students on the basis of the general performance countrywide. To qualify for admission under the quota system, one must be a born of that district and his or her parents must be permanent residents of the district.

Lillian Namugambe Musisi, Masaka District Community Development Officer revealed that when all children are not registered, it is difficult for the district to plan for them. “Some caretakers do not ascertain the ages of the children they are with. There are cases in the district where these unregistered children have missed out on opportunities,” she added.

The Masaka district chairman, community development officer and the child family protection unit in Masaka called for increased awareness about the importance of birth registration, noting that some community members have just realised that birth certificates are as important as the National IDs, all issued by NIRA.

The merging of birth and death registration with national IDs under NIRA provides a step towards a sustainable government-run Civil Registration and Vital Statistics system, which will ensure that all children have access to birth registration and certification in a timely manner.

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