BEST OF 2016 – Birth registration is crucial for children’s lives. It’s not only a right, but also an indispensable protective mechanism.
A specialist to aswer our questions
Baudouin KASONGO YANGALU has been the lead Director of the Population Department at the Ministry of the Interior, Security, Decentralization, and Customs since 2009. He has assumed the duties of civil service and conducted the census for nearly 30 years.
An expert in the problem of birth registration, he agreed to answer Pona Bana’s questions and to explain how he has become one of the most ardent defenders of birth registration.
Why is it important to register a child with the state?
The right to have a name and a nationality, as well as knowing ones parents, are fundamental rights of the child according to Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). Beyond being a right, it is also a way for the child to be recognized by the state. Birth is the first legal recognition of the existence of a child, which will allow him or her to have proof of age to access services and to be protected against abuses. The child can then:
- Access health care and receive vaccinations;
- Be enrolled in school at an appropriate age;
- Be protected against the exploitation of child labor through laws relating to the minimum age necessary to gain employment;
- Not be forced to get married before the legal age;
- Not be enlisted in the army before the legal age;
- Facilitate identification, documentation, ancestral and familial research, and reunification in case a child is separated from his or her family;
- Have a nationality, become a citizen;
- Access his or her legacy;
- Obtain a passport, open a bank account, obtain a credit card, vote in elections, and seek employment.
How many births are registered in the DRC?
28%In the DRC, only 28% of children are registered at birth.
In the DRC, multiple efforts are made by the Ministry of the Interior, Security, Decentralization, and Customs and UNICEF to contribute to the revitalization of vital services. 773,881 children were registered in 2013. However, UNICEF’s 2013 report called, « The Right of Each Child at Birth: Inequalities and Trends in Birth Registration” revealed that the DRC is one of 10 countries registering the lowest birth rate, with only 28% (MICS 2010).
Many factors are responsible for this low rate. Indeed, the country has only 1200 registration offices for 2,345,410 square kilometers, averagine 1 office for every 1952 square kilometers. In addition, some rural areas are very difficult to access because of weak infrastructure, the capacity of civil servants is limited, especially because of their very low or nonexistent wages, and the population lacks interest in birth registration.
A few days ago, I was talking to Mr. Noel Luenda, the head of the Division of the Interior in Kinshasa. His goal is to explain the importance of birth registration and obtaining birth certificates to the families in Kinshasa, as well as procedures for registering. He told me a story about the Kaseka* family, who lives in Kinshasa with two young children. Because of a fire, the cabinet containing the documents of both the parents and the children was damaged. All of the documents were burned, and only the birth certificate of one child could be saved. The parents when to the civil state office to explain, and the officer of the civil state office was able to find traces of the records in his archives, and so was able to establish a full copy of the missing document.
What is the legal framework for birth registration?
The birth certificate is an authentic document, secured and archived in three offices (Civil State Office, the High Court, and the Central office because of articles 82, 87, and 116 of the Family Code).
It is free for the 90 days following a birth. Once the 90 days have past, parents may contact the Juvenile Court to receive a supplementary judgment and to apply for a birth certificate for the newborn. Adults can take the same approach, although with the High Court and subject to the payment of administrative fees and court costs. Article 117 of the Family Code provides for a sentence of seven days or a fine for any parent who has not registered his or her child.
What can the parents do?
It is every parent’s responsibility to register their children at birth, or even belatedly, so that they can fully enjoy their rights. We often say to them: Bozela te ! (Don’t wait!) Register your children during the 90 days after they are born!
If a mother gives birth in a maternity ward, she may sign a power of attorney to have a third party (a health worker, district chief, etc.), register her child.
If a vaccination campaign is organized, births can be recorded at the time of vaccination.
If you have not registered your child within 90 days of his or her birth, go to the Juvenile Court or the High Court, both of which will inform you of the procedures and the eventual possibility of court hearings, during which you could find yourself with supplementary judgments.
*Name was changed
Photos: UNICEF RDC / Olivier Asselin
Vanessa Wirth is a Child Protection Officer at UNICEF where she used to coordinate the Child Protection in Emergencies Working Group in DRC. She is currently in charge of the Birth Registration pillar. Specialized in Human Rights, she strongly believes that protecting children’s rights is the best approach to tackling their vulnerabilities and guaranteeing a smooth transition to adulthood. Her leitmotiv? Never stop dreaming.
Vanessa Wirth est Chargée de Protection de l’Enfant à l’UNICEF ou elle a coordonné le Groupe de Travail sur la Protection de l’Enfant en situation d’urgence en RDC. Elle est actuellement responsable du pilier Enregistrement des Naissances. Spécialisée en droits humains, elle croit fermement que la protection des droits des enfants est la meilleure approche pour atténuer leur vulnérabilité et garantir une transition en douceur vers l’âge adulte. Son credo : « N’arrête jamais de rêver ».
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