UNIVERSAL AND COMPULSORY BIRTH REGISTRATION

1st August, 2015 will go down in the history of Malawi as the day when the country shifted from optional birth and death registration for indigenous citizens [as per the Birth and Death Registration Act of 1904] to universal and compulsory birth and death registration for all in the country [as per the National Registration Act of 2010].

This policy shift meant that the National Registration Bureau (NRB) assumed the roles of birth and death registration from the Registrar General’s office from the date the 2010 law was effected (1st August, 2015).  Thus the general public has to visit all district registration offices in the 28 district councils in order to apply for either birth or death certificate for their children and the deceased respectively.

 

Speaking in Blantyre recently, NRB’s Chief Director Mr. Francis Chinsinga indicated that so far registration of birth and death has started well in all the districts in the country.

“We are happy that partners like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Plan Malawi, European Union, World Vision have joined government [sic] to support us.  It is my hope that with their support we (NRB) will reach out to children below the age of 16,” said Mr. Chinsinga.

In the meantime, NRB is implementing birth registration in 3 pilot districts of Chitipa, Ntcheu and Blantyre with funds from CDC.  In these 3 districts, the district hospitals in Chitipa and Ntcheu, Queen Elizabeth Central in Blantyre and Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe have been electronically connected to District Registration Offices respectively and once a birth takes place in each of the facilities, it is immediately recorded and the data sent electronically to the Data Centre in Lilongwe through the District Registration Office.

This process, which will be increased to all the districts by 2016, will enhance registration of births across the country a very basis for the protection of children’s rights in Malawi.

By the end of 2016, NRB also plans to roll out community birth registration in all the 28 districts in Malawi.  This process will help clear the backlog of children below 16 years who are living in the country without Birth Certificates and are being exposed to various forms of abuses. Once implemented, Malawi will have moved a significant step forward in protecting her children from abuses such as child trafficking, child labour, early marriages etc.

But is NRB ready to implement this huge task? From the resource availability point of view and planning, NRB appears to be set for the exercise.  So far, CDC has made available millions of dollars for the job and other partners too including the government of Malawi are coming in to support loose ends.  Again, the government of Malawi has shown commitment by including NRB in its reform program where the issuance of Birth and Death Certificates is among the priorities to be fulfilled by NRB.

Having gone this far, what remains therefore is for NRB to embark on mass sensitization program of the exercise in order to let Malawians understand the importance of birth registration.

Protection of children is a noble cause, let us all join hands in protecting Malawi children from all forms of abuse.

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