Birth registration numbers have grown in Afghanistan’s northern region, with the support of a UN project designed to help prevent child labour, counter child marriage and otherwise protect the rights of children.
According to officials from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the number of parents registering their children in the northern regions of the country has increased to 50 per cent in 2014 and is expected to reach 80 per cent in urban and 60 per cent in rural areas by 2019.A nationwide UNICEF project that supports vital statistics departments across Afghanistan is designed to bring birth registration facilities closer to families and encourage parents to have their newly born children recognized as citizens.“Birth registration is one of the fundamental rights of the child defined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Andrew Morris, head of UNICEF in Mazar-e-Sharif. “Registering a child's birth officially registers the existence of the child and helps ensure access to their other rights.” In Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital city of the northern province of Balkh, there are now 264 birth registration facilities available, mainly in healthcare centres. In addition, more than 200 registration facilities are operating in villages, providing services to people living in the province’s most remote areas.Recently, with UNICEF’s support, Mazar-e Sharif connected to the Interior Ministry’s online database, which is updated daily with thousands of entries from across the country. “We register nearly 200 newborns from across Balkh each day,” said Samia Shenawa, a vital statistics officer in Balkh’s Census Department. “I am happy that the Interior Ministry, with UNICEF’s help, is launching regular training programmes on how to use the online database system.”To facilitate this nationwide effort, UNICEF has provided capacity-building programmes for government personnel working on the project. Mr. Morris says UNICEF will continue to support Afghanistan’s birth-registration systems at the national, provincial and district levels.