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Calls for birth certificates to become mandatory

2014-12-16  Mathias Haufiku

Calls for birth certificates to become mandatory
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By Mathias Haufiku WINDHOEK -With many babies leaving hospitals without birth certificates after birth, a situation brought upon mostly by absent fathers, there are calls to make it compulsory for all newborn babies to have birth certificates before leaving hospitals. This was stated in a report presented by National Council Deputy Chairperson Magreth-Mensah Williams when the council resumed its business yesterday. The MPs resumed to discuss the Child Care and Protection Bill that was referred from the National Assembly last month. “Many newborn babies were reported not to have birth certificates due to the absence of one of the parents, and in most cases it is the absence of the father. In the process, it is the children that suffer the most. Against this background, it is therefore highly recommended that no newborn baby should leave hospital without being issued with a birth certificate,” said Mensah-Williams when she presented the report. The much-awaited Child Care and Protection Bill provides a legislative framework to give effect to some of the rights of children that are yet to be fully realized, such as provision of a children’s fund. Children activists have over the years claimed that many a time the rights of Namibian children are violated due to the absence of a law protecting them. The 2011 census indicates there are 956 634 children in the country, of whom 36 percent are under the age of 15, with 150 589 classified as vulnerable children. If adopted, the Bill will replace the outdated Children’s Act 33 of 1960 and integrate with the Children’s Status Act 6 of 2006. The first draft of the Bill was prepared over two decades ago. In the report, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration was also urged to consider issuing national documents without following the normal procedures for the accessing of national documents in the case of absent fathers. Children without birth certificates are unable to access basic services such as health, education, and social grants and even to acquire national documents such as identity cards and passports. According to the report, some members of the public also proposed vulnerable children should receive assistance from the state because some parents and caretakers cannot afford funeral expenses. With regard to safety and care of juvenile offenders, the report states: “Facilities for juvenile offenders should be properly established in terms of education, recreational facilities, spiritual services as well as psycho-social support services.” Members of the public, according to the report, want the Bill to find legal mechanisms that will compel all children of school-going age to be in school regardless of their physical condition. “Some parents are not registering their disabled and down-syndrome children fearing they will be discriminated against. This is not something one should be ashamed of doing because it is God’s creation of such children,” motivated Mensah-Williams. The report noted some caretakers of vulnerable children receive funds from donors but the intended beneficiaries do not benefit from the donations. “There is a need for the line ministry to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of these centres. It is advisable that such grants be paid directly to the line ministry instead of it being paid to the shelters,” further recommended the report.
2014-12-16  Mathias Haufiku

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