Myan­mar takes step to make sure all births get reg­is­tered

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

With close to 20 per cent of chil­dren un­reg­is­tered, Myan­mar has taken a crit­i­cal step to ful­fill its com­mit­ment to univer­sal birth reg­is­tra­tion for all chil­dren up to age 10 born in all parts of the coun­try. One of the ma­jor mile­stones on the road to univer­sal birth reg­is­tra­tion in Myan­mar was achieved on Oc­to­ber 20 with the launch of a re­vised Man­ual aimed at sim­pli­fy­ing the reg­is­tra­tion process for births and deaths. Is­sued by the Min­istry of Plan­ning and Fi­nance, with sup­port from UNICEF and in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Min­istry of Health and Sports, the new ‘Man­ual for the Birth and Death Reg­is­tra­tion Sys­tem’ is ex­pected to open the door for more chil­dren to ac­cess their rights to ba­sic so­cial ser­vices, such as ed­u­ca­tion, as well as pro­tec­tion.

"To meet the goal of univer­sal birth reg­is­tra­tion we need to make it eas­ier for peo­ple to reg­is­ter births and deaths. So we have re­moved the late reg­is­tra­tion fees and made it pos­si­ble to reg­is­ter all chil­dren up to 10 years of age – in the lo­ca­tion where they were born, or where they live,” said H.E U Kyaw Win, Union Min­is­ter for Plan­ning and Fi­nance at the launch event, which took place last week in Naypyi­daw. Rel­e­vant of­fi­cials from Union, State and Re­gions as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity at­tended the event, where de­tailed pre­sen­ta­tions on the new man­ual were made. “This im­proved reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem will also en­able us to ob­tain more re­li­able in­for­ma­tion on births and deaths, which con­trib­utes to the setup of the much-needed Civil Reg­is­tra­tion and Vi­tal Statis­tics Sys­tem, en­hanc­ing our abil­ity to plan and make crit­i­cal pol­icy de­ci­sions based on re­li­able data,” said H.E U Kyaw Win.

The over­haul of the Man­ual is part of a wider process to achieve univer­sal birth reg­is­tra­tion in Myan­mar for all chil­dren up to age 10 born in all parts of the coun­try, re­gard­less of their par­ents’ na­tion­al­ity, eth­nic­ity and cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus. With sup­port from the Euro­pean Union, na­tion-wide cam­paigns were con­ducted in 2014 and 2015 to raise aware­ness about the ben­e­fits and pro­ce­dures of birth reg­is­tra­tion, and to en­cour­age peo­ple to reg­is­ter their chil­dren. More than 300,000 un­der-five chil­dren were reached, boost­ing reg­is­tra­tion to 82 per cent of chil­dren. Even so, just un­der 20 per cent of chil­dren be­low the age of five re­main un­reg­is­tered. Dif­fer­ences across the coun­try are stark. While most chil­dren in ur­ban ar­eas are reg­is­tered, few chil­dren in re­mote and hard to reach ar­eas pos­sess a birth cer­tifi­cate. Chil­dren of mi­grants and those who do not live with their par­ents are the most likely to re­main un­reg­is­tered.

Pos­sess­ing a birth cer­tifi­cate, will help chil­dren to ac­cess their rights to health, to en­roll in school and to ben­e­fit from child pro­tec­tion and so­cial ser­vices. Chil­dren with­out a birth cer­tifi­cate are more vul­ner­a­ble to un­der-age re­cruit­ment into the armed forces, early mar­riage and traf­fick­ing. Later on in life, it may also mean that they are de­nied chances for higher stud­ies and job op­por­tu­ni­ties, which of­ten re­quire ap­pli­cants to pro­vide a birth cer­tifi­cate. “With this new reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem we trust the up­com­ing birth reg­is­tra­tion cam­paigns in the eight States and Re­gions not cov­ered pre­vi­ously will be even more successful,” said H.E. Dr. My­in­tHtwe, Union Min­is­ter for Health and Sports. “The sys­tem will also en­able all those in­volved in reg­is­ter­ing chil­dren to con­nect the dots and to en­sure that any child born in Myan­mar au­to­mat­i­cally has the right to ac­cess all so­cial ser­vices and other sup­port,” he said.

“It could also help im­prove the Health In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem and in com­put­ing mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity rates”, he men­tioned. The roll out of the new pro­ce­dures to all the States and Re­gions will take some time and will in­volve ex­ten­sive train­ing with ba­sic health staff and other re­lated gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. This will re­quire fur­ther fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment and crit­i­cal part­ner­ships. UNICEF’s Act­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Myan­mar, Paul Ed­wards, ex­plained that univer­sal birth reg­is­tra­tion is a life­long in­vest­ment in ev­ery per­son's po­ten­tial. “The record­ing of a child at birth is of­ten re­ferred to as the “first right” of the child, be­cause it es­tab­lishes his or her ex­is­tence un­der law and pro­vides the foun­da­tion for safe­guard­ing many of their hu­man rights,” he said.

The new Man­ual has been de­vel­oped un­der the stew­ard­ship of the Gov­ern­ment’s Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee on Birth and Death Reg­is­tra­tion (CCBDR) and the tech­ni­cal ef­forts of the In­ter-Agency Work­ing Group on Vi­tal Reg­is­tra­tion (IAWG-VR), bring­ing sev­eral min­istries to­gether. It is the re­sult of a long-term ef­fort, ini­ti­ated in 2014, which in­volved many tech­ni­cal re­views, as well as field-test­ing. “It has been an im­por­tant and de­tailed process that has brought many stake­hold­ers to­gether,” said Ed­wards. “Our ex­pe­ri­ence in other Asian coun­tries has been in­stru­men­tal and has al­lowed us to as­sist with the de­vel­op­ment of a sys­tem which we trust is the first crucial step to­wards en­sur­ing that no one is left be­hind.” UNICEF has been work­ing with the Gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple of Myan­mar since 1950. In part­ner­ship with the Gov­ern­ment and the civil so­ci­ety, UNICEF’s cur­rent fo­cus of work aims at re­duc­ing child mor­tal­ity, im­prov­ing ac­cess and qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion and pro­tect­ing chil­dren from vi­o­lence, abuse and ex­ploita­tion.

Mother with her baby in a slum in Yan­gon. Photo: Mizzima

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