[By Siabana Kelvin in Kasama]
World Vision Zambia says the establishment of the first ever birth certificate issuance centre in Kasama at more than US$34,000 will enable newly born children with legal identity and proof of existence.
World Vision Zambia country director John Hasse said it was a right of every child to have a written birth certificate as it provides evidence of their birth place, parentage and proof of age, especially when issues of abuse occur in trying to define whether one was a child or not.
Hasse said due to lack of birth records, especially for a girl child, perpetrators take advantage of children who have been both sexually and physically abused knowing that there was no evidence that could stand in their favour to prove their age.
“As a child focused organisation, World Vision takes a community based approach in ensuring that children’s lives are transformed while aiming to achieve our vision of life in all its fullness for every child,” Hasse said.
Hasse said it was unfortunate that due to the absence of identity, over 200 million children were unknown to their governments and have limited access to services provided in their communities every year.
“World Vision has worked in Zambia for over 38 years and it has greatly continued to impact on the lives of children and their families in all 10 provinces through programmes such as health, education, water sanitation and economic empowerment,” Hasse said.
Hasse said a birth certificate serves as a critical tool for justice to prevail, especially in matters related to children requiring successful prosecutions against crimes of sexual abuse, child labour, child marriages, child exploitation and other forms of abuse.
“We believe this centre will provide an opportunity for children in Northern Province to have an identity and be recognised as Zambians, thereby enhancing their protection and access to their entitlements now and in future,” Hasse said.
Hasse said World Vision was open to continued partnership with the Department of Birth Registration, Passport and Citizenship to ensure more children were registered and issued with birth certificates.
The organisation has commended the government for achieving its commitment to decentralise birth certification in all provincial centres.
And speaking at the same occasion, Northern Province assistant secretary Sineva Kambenja, who spoke on behalf of Minister of Home Affairs, Steven Kampyongo, said the coverage of birth and death registration was very low.
Kampyongo said birth registration was at 16 per cent.
He said the centralised certification had contributed hugely to the low levels of civil registration as people were finding it difficult and expensive to obtain birth or death certificates in Lusaka.
“As a response to these bottlenecks and in line with the 2015-2019 National Strategic Action, the Ministry signed a statutory instrument number 44 of 2016 to decentralise certification,” Kampyongo said.
He said over the past three years, the provincial certification centres had been established in Ndola, Kabwe, Choma, Mansa, Chipata, Solwezi and now Kasama.
“Efforts to improve birth and death registration in Zambia have resulted in increased demand and birth registration has now, therefore, risen from less than 12,000 per year in 2012 to 130,000 in 2018,” Kampyongo said.
He said the number of deaths registered per year had increased from less than 1,000 per year in 2012 to about 40,000 in 2018 and the causes of deaths were classified according to international standards.
Kampyongo said the government was committed to ensuring that all people in the country had access to birth registration by the year 2030 in line with target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).