Windhoek — Although Namibia still has citizens who do not have national identity documents, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration has managed to register 42,154 babies under the age of one year, which translates to 60 percent of all newborn babies, while 60,854 persons were registered late in the 2016/2017 financial year.
This was revealed by Home Affairs Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana yesterday, who admitted during the launch of the E-Birth Notification System that the high numbers of late registration of birth was a major challenge towards attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals, that call for establishing a legal identity for all, including birth registration by 2030.
She said the ministry has been spending more resources on mobile registration exercises countrywide, aimed at registering persons who for various reasons could not be registered immediately after birth.
She said the ministry, after realising the scope of these challenges, engaged the Ministry of Health and Social Services in 2008 to open birth registration offices in hospitals to improve access and efficiency.
"I am delighted that this has improved the rate of birth registration considerably, thanks to the collaborative spirit between our two ministries, which I know will grow from strength to strength, as we will witness shortly," she said.
In their efforts to further reduce the late registration of births, she said the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health have collaborated with her ministry in the implementation of the e-birth notification system, launched yesterday.
The aim of the e-birth system is to notify the National Population Registration System electronically when a birth has occurred at any hospital in the country in order to secure the birth details of the child. The nurse who facilitated the delivery of the baby will do the notification immediately after the birth.
She said the e-birth notification system would ensure verification of the mother's identity, as it is linked to the National Population Registration System, as well as improve data quality and timely production of vital statistics.
"Statistics track the major milestones in a person's life, from birth to marriage and eventually death. Such data are essential for planning and implementing development policies and programmes, particularly in health, education, housing, water and sanitation, employment, agriculture and industrial production," the minister said.
Health Minister Dr Bernard Haufiku welcomed the initiative, saying it sets the tone for other ministries as electronic systems are faster, easy to manage and reliable, adding that it's the way to do business today.
Further, Iivula-Ithana said addressing inequities or protection of marginalised groups would not be possible in the absence of accurate population data, nor can good governance, human rights and the rule of law be properly adhered to. Without a birth certificate, children are not able to enroll in school and are not eligible to receive child support or grants.
She said when children have no legal proof of age and legal identity they are more vulnerable to early marriage and other harmful practices, including child labour, illegal inter-country adoption, and recruitment into armed forces and groups, or commercial sexual exploitation.
Lack of birth certificates, Iivula-Ithana said, can also complicate the processes for repatriation of refugee children, as well as people tracing for children separated from their families. She said the system will be piloted at Windhoek Central Hospital and Katutura State Hospital in June.
She further said that in July a team from the technical working group will carry out an assessment at Rundu and Eenhana state hospitals, whereafter the system will be rolled out to all state hospitals, depending on the availability of funds.
She noted that Rhino Park Private Hospital has already approached the ministry to roll out the system there. After the introduction of the e-birth notification system, she said, the ministry will explore the development of an e-death notification system.