Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Health Reporter
Government on Tuesday night gave a nod to the re-opening of the registrar general’s office which will see more than 6 199 children born during the Covid-19 lockdown access birth certificates in Bulawayo. Despite provisions in the law that every birth should be registered within then first 42 days, these babies could not register their existence because of the global pandemic — Covid-19 which has claimed 224 lives in Zimbabwe.
At the inception of the Covid-19 lockdown in March, Government suspended operations of the registry office which has forced many mothers to got for months without registering the birth of their children. This can be easily understood as the whole world did not see Covid-19 and its ripple effect come, but may cause future problems for these children who come from a region where more than 42 percent of births are not registered.
The Constitution in Section 81 (1) (b) states that: “Every child, that is to say every boy and girl under the age of 18 years has the right to be given a name and family name.”
A notice of birth should be given to the Registrar at the nearest birth and death registration office in the district within 42 days and where there was a stillbirth, such a notice should be done as soon as possible or within 30 days.
On average, Zimbabwe receives just over 400 000 births annually, this means the backlog which has run for over six months could be running into 200 000 unregistered births.
From April 1, Mpilo Central Hospital and the United Bulawayo Hospitals the two major public hospitals for the southern province recorded about 5 285 births while Bulawayo City Council run clinics recorded 912 deliveries.
With the economy opening up gradually, many fear that these children in addition to those who were not registered before the advent of Covid-19 may struggle to get birth certificates.
On Tuesday, the Cabinet said the easing of lockdown restrictions is aimed at balancing between economic interests and the protection of life.
“In order to facilitate access to critical documentation from the Registrar-General’s Office during the Covid-19 induced lockdown, Cabinet has approved the reopening of all registry centres to offer essential services such as the issuance of births and death certificates, national registrations as well as passports,” reads the Cabinet statement.
“Measures are being put in place to ensure that operations at the RG’s Office, which are usually characterised by overcrowding are in line with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and WHO protocols in order to curtail the transmission of Covid-19.”
UBH Acting chief executive officer Dr Narcacius Dzvanga said 1 339 births were recorded at the institution from April 1 to August 31 and the institution is yet to collate statistics for September as they normally do monthly reports.
According to the Mpilo acting chief executive Dr Solwayo Ngwenya, from April 1 to September 16, there were 3 948 births which were recorded at the institution.
The director of health services department Dr Edwin Sibanda said a total of 912 children were delivered in council run clinics who are in need of birth certificates. “There were 912 children were born during the period stretching from the start April 1 to August 32.
Birth certificates are legal documents and therefore, announce the arrival of the child to the state and other entities,” said Dr Sibanda.
“However, should there be a delay as is the case due to Covid-19 the state can use estimates and issue the documents at the opportune moment, so that those in need of travelling may not be inconvenienced.”
Mr Phumulani Mpofu the executive director of Trinity Trust which deals with children’s rights said the existent birth certificate backlog needs a deliberate stance so that children are not short changed.
“Before Covid-19 there was a backlog of 43 percent of children without birth certificates across Matebeleland region. Now with Covid-19 the situation has only gotten worse,” said Mr Mpofu.
“My proposal will be that the Government has to waiver and loosen requirements as there has been home births, secondly they need to conduct mobile registrations so that they reach to those who may not be able to go to registry offices.”
Mr Mpofu said the registry office was also supposed to work around increasing the number if births they register a day from 50 to cover a lot of ground.
“With SA borders opening 1 October we are likely to see more people migrating in search of economic opportunities so the earlier massive registrations are done the better because if these parents migrate more children will struggle to be registered as they will be left with relatives who are not eligible to register them,” added Mr Mpofu. — @thamamoe