Gwanda (Ilanga-New Ziana) – Rural councillors and other stakeholders in Gwanda have raised concerns over the complicated procedure of acquiring a birth certificate, especially by children born outside the country’s borders, as well as those who lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.
The issue of birth certificates is traumatizing innocent children caught up, and also affects the country at large as quite a sizeable population of its citizens would be undocumented.
Without a birth certificate, a child is denied access to education and other social services, and cannot obtain a national identity card or passport,among other drawbacks.
Gwanda Rural Ward 19 Councilor Tompson Makhalima said: “This is a disturbing issue because most of the children go up to grade 7 and fail to seat for the examinations because they do not have birth certificates. However, it has come to our attention that you (Registry Department) will be going to rural areas to assist them acquire births certificates.
“Nonetheless, you must (make flexible) some of your policies according to situations because some of the affected people will still fail to get these important national documents, hence there is need to relax some of the prerequisites. The procedures are time consuming and expensive because there will be a need to go to the police station first and there will be payments required.”
Some stakeholders strongly felt that the registry department must clearly state the prerequisites needed by one to acquire birth certificates and other identity documents.
“The registry department is not doing enough to assist people. There is serious lack of information out there in rural areas. I therefore suggest that registry must have frequent rural outreach programmes on information dissemination and at the same time open ward officers in order to cut transport costs for the already suffering and marginisalised rural folks,” he added.
However, this challenge does not only fall on the registry department.
It was noted that the Ministry of Health has an important role to play in order to assist the people. At one time the health ministry would deny children the birth records if the parent would have failed to pay her hospital bills.
By so doing, the Ministry was infringing on the childrens’ rights to national documents.
But the registry department said it was taking action to resolve the challenges people in remote areas faced to obtain birth certificates and other national identity documents.
“There is an ongoing program and as registry we noticed that due to economic challenges most of our people hardly afford to come to the city to be registered and some people can’t have birth certificates due to monetary challenges. As a result we will be attending to people in rural areas so that they easily get their birth certificates,” Arnold Dube, from the registry department, said.