Currently 40% of children don’t have any identity documentation, which enables abuse and prevents their defence of and access to basic rights. UNICEF is trying to resolve this situation.
A novel idea favouring children has become a reality now that the Namibian Ministry of the Interior and Immigration has established an office in the maternity wing of Windhoek’s main public hospital. This initiative, supported by UNICEF, is designed to ensure that every child born in the hospital receives a birth certificate.
In Namibia, 81% of women already give birth in a hospital. However, 40% of Namibian children under five don’t have a birth certificate. Those without one are more vulnerable to abuse, enslavement and early marriage, and they have less access to public services and schooling.
**Brining down barriers**
Choosing the name of a boy or girl in Namibia is traditionally reserved for the family of the father, and this practice can cause delays in the registering of births.
In the Katutura state hospital, the nurses and the team from the Ministry of the Interior advise mothers that they should either reach an agreement on the name before the birth, or register the child when they return six weeks later for their vaccines.
“In this case, the Ministry of Health offers the facilities and the Ministry of the Interior and Immigration provides the personnel necessary to register the children”, said Ian MacLeod, UNICEF Representative in Namibia.
“They have brought down the traditional barriers that were preventing the ministries from working together for the children’s greater interest”, he added.
**The mobile registration teams**
The campaign to increase registrations is also reaching children in remoter parts.
In Okongo, to the north of Namibia, hundreds of people – among them children and elderly – recently camped out all night awaiting the arrival of a mobile registration team.
Owing to the fact that the Ministry of the Interior’s office is hundreds of kilometres from Okongo, the travel costs alone make it too expensive for many of these people to seek registration.
The recent mobile registration campaign, bringing this fundamental service to remote communities, was the second to be carried out this year.
**Reaching indigenous communities**
An even greater challenge is guaranteeing the delivery of birth certificates to members of the San ethnic group from Namibia who are traditional hunter-gatherers. They are the country’s most marginalised minority and often lack access to the most basic services.
According to the civil servants in charge of registrations, many of these nomadic people don’t know their birth dates, and some don’t even know their parents’ names.
Some don’t know how to read or write, which is why they have to sign the registration forms with fingerprints in place of a signature, and many of the parents don’t have the necessary documentation to be able to prove that a child is theirs.
Fortunately, the civil servants are committed to overcoming these obstacles.
The registration program, that receives support from UNICEF, is now extending to 34 health centres across the country, demonstrating the Namibian Government’s strong commitment to this initiative.
“Namibia is a member state of the United Nations with the mandate, conferred by all states, to register all citizens as a basic right”, said the Minister of the Interior and Immigration, Rosalia Nghidinwa.
“With a birth certificate, children can access health and education services, social welfare, and also receive protection”.
*(Translated by [Rupert James Spedding](firstname.lastname@example.org))*