Delegation of the European Union to Albania

Speech of Esther Bouma, Health Programme Manager, for the Signing Event of the MoU on Scaling-Up Birth and Death Registration in Zambia, 14/06/2019

Lusaka, 14/06/2019 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 190624_12
Speeches of the Ambassador

Speech for the Signing Event of the MoU on Scaling-Up Birth and Death Registration in Zambia, 14/06/2019

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kennedy Malama

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Dr. Liya Mutale

The UNICEF Deputy Country Representative, Mr. Shadrack Omol

The National Director Public Health, Dr. Andrew Silumesii

Government Officials

Cooperating Partners

Members of the Media

Ladies and Gentlemen


Good morning


  • My name is Esther Bouma. I am a woman. I was born on xxxxx, 15 minutes before midnight, in a place called xxxxx in the Netherlands. My mother’s name is xxxx and my father’s name is xxxxxxxx. This information, and even more, you can find on my birth certificate. Of course, I did not learn my name from a piece of paper, but trough my birth certificate I was formally recognized by the Government of the Netherlands as a Dutch citizen. And with that, also came the state’s responsibility to uphold and protect my rights as a citizen.
  • A birth certificate is not just a piece of paper. It is the official legal proof about who you are, who your parents are, where you are from, and when you were born. It provides an official proof of your identity, nationality and your age, which allows for participation in elections, in getting access to education, health and financial services, and it demonstrates family connection in case of inheritance. A birth certificate also provides official proof about your exact age, which is particularly important for protecting the rights of children. It can be used as proof against child exploitation, child labour and child marriage, and it can even protect the rights of children in prison. This is why it is so important to have a birth certificate.
  • It is therefore quite concerning that the birth registration coverage in Zambia was only 11% according to the 2013/14 Demographic and Health Survey, with only 4% having a birth certificate.
  • A very effective way of improving birth registration coverage is through setting up birth registration desks within health facilities. This is the place where babies are born and where mothers come with their young children. An obvious and effective entry point to increase birth registration. It is this approach of health facility-based birth registration, which the European Union has supported since 2015 through its regional programme on birth registration and through its mother and child health programme implemented by UNICEF
  • With investments from the European Union, more than 600 birth registration desks in health facilities have been set-up; and more than 1600 people within the health sector and within home affairs have been trained on advocacy about the importance of birth registration, on the completion of birth registration forms, and on processing and delivering of certificates. Through these efforts the births of close to 450,000 children have been registered between 2015 and 2018. In 2018 alone more than 134,000 births were registered, which is an enormous increase from the 3,000 registered births in 2012.
  • The European Union commends the Ministry of Home Affairs for the decision taken in 2016 to allow registrars at provincial level to perform birth certification functions. This was an important decision as it meant that no longer all birth certificates needed to be issued at central level. They now could be processed and the birth certificates officially printed at provincial level. Of course this legal decision required resources in order to be implemented. We are pleased to partner with the Ministry of Home Affairs and UNICEF, as so far we have set-up and equipped 3 birth certificate printing centres in Ndola, Kabwe and Choma. This has allowed for a huge reduction in the necessary time between birth registration and birth certification.
  • We hope that the 2018 comprehensive review of the entire Civil Registration and Vital Statistics legal framework financed by the EU and conducted by the Zambia Law Development Commission will allow for Government to continue to take concrete and innovative actions on ways to further improve both birth and death registration.
  • Although preliminary results of the new Demographic and Health Survey have come out, no updated data on the birth registration coverage have yet been released. We hope that considering the investments that have been made over the last few years that the coverage has gone up. Substantial progress has been made with regards to health facility based birth registration. That said, many more health facilities in Zambia do not yet have such a birth registration desk, and many babies, children and adults go through life without a birth certificate. Progress is made, and we congratulate the government for that. We also all know that we still have a long way to go.
  • Today’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health on scaling-up birth and death registration is therefore so special as it is a clear and concrete commitment from the Zambian government to roll-out this approach to the whole country. We congratulate the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Home Affairs for taking this step.  We are looking forward to continue our good collaboration with both ministries and with UNICEF in scaling up birth and death registration.
  • In closing, let me say it again: my birth certificate has given me my identity and my nationality, and it is protecting my rights. I wish all Zambians the same.


Thank you


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