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UNICEF helps birth registration in Solomon Islands

Radio Australia

952 days ago   Article ID# 1213736
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United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (Radio Australia) - The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund or UNICEF has launched a campaign to register all births in Solomon Islands by 2015.

Currently, few births are registered which makes it difficult to track children's welfare and help the government plan the delivery of services.

UNICEF is putting new strategies in place to make it easier for people to register births.

CAPARELLO: Currently birth registration processes in the Solomon Islands are largely centralised, which means that there is one central civil registration office in Honiara. So this is a service arrangement which presents serious challenges in a country like Solomon Islands where 80 per cent of the population lives away from urban centres, in remote and island communities. So currently unfortunately people are expected to come from different provinces to Honiara and register their children, which although the service at the moment in Solomon Islands by law is free of charge, but the cost of the travel and the logistics of the travel for the people can be a serious impediment for that to happen. So probably one of the biggest challenges at the moment in terms of service availability.

SHIELDS: This statistic's probably hard for you to gauge because it's not actually happening but do you know how many births are going unregistered at the moment?

CAPARELLO: Well currently the coverage of unregistered births in Solomon Islands is really unknown. What we know is from the Solomon Islands government, UNICEF, Child Protection Baseline survey which was done in 2008 with birth registration ... coverage estimated to be the lowest in the Pacific for the Solomon Islands, around zero-point-one-per cent only of children of births formally registered in 2007. It's considered to be the lowest in the Pacific.

SHIELDS: Ok so the aim is to launch the campaign and you're working towards 2015 as the implementation year. How do you expect the community will respond to this?

CAPARELLO: Indeed it's quite an ambitious goal that the government has set international children's policies to register all children. What we are currently doing we're working very closely in providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Civil Registration as well as Minister of Health and Medical Services. One of the key strategies that we're trying to support partnership opportunities between government agencies, so the services can be decentralised or delegation under the Birth and Death Registration Act can be implemented, so that the services are actually brought closer to the communities, what is most needed. So for these reasons UNICEF is currently supporting in the Solomon Islands is a pilot initiative in three pilot hospitals; one at national level in Honiara, national referral and in two provincial hospitals in Giza Western Province, and Taro, Choiseul province, where actually we are supporting piloting of revised birth notification procedures so that children directly from the health structures the information can be shared to the Civil Registration Department where there is direct registration at birth pretty much. So really trying to support information sharing among government agencies so that services can be brought down to people. The initial response that we had was overwhelming when we supported training down to the provinces, not only health personnel and health staff, but also people when they heard about birth registration and the purpose of birth registration, the advantages of birth registration for the children, they came and they wanted to register all the children, themselves and their relatives. Sometimes behaviours are really linked with knowledge, if you know why something is so important then you would really want your children to have it. So far the response has been overwhelming and we hope to achieve more and more towards this ambitious goal.

SHIELDS: So you've got the two hospitals and the health staff onboard already. Who else do you need to help UNICEF out to make this happen?

CAPARELLO: I think it is crucial in a country like the Soiomon Islands to get the engagement of churches and religious groups because currently most of the birth notification records are capped through baptism certificates and for the presence of churches and the power of outreach the churches have in the Solomon Islands, definitely churches are a really important ally, as well as probably the education sector as well, this is something that the Ministry is considering at the moment because of the possibilities and opportunities offered in terms of birth registration as a prerequisite for enrolment in early childhood or in primary, which at the moment is currently not happening.

Copyright 2014 Radio Australia   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 952 days ago   Article ID# 1213736

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