Two out of three children do not officially exist in the country

Seminar ‘birth registration is right of every child’

Salim Ahmed

Only 33-per cent of children under the age of five in Pakistan are registered meaning thereby that out of 23 million children only 7.7 million are registered and approximately two out of three children do not officially exist in the country.
This was revealed by United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Pakistan, Chief Child Protection, Silvia Pastir, while addressing a seminar on “Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS), here at the University of Health Sciences (UHS) on Wednesday. The seminar was organized by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform (PDR) in collaboration with Unicef, Pakistan.
Silvia maintained that birth registration is more than just a right. “It is how societies first recognized and acknowledges a child’s identity and existence”, she said, adding: “Birth registration was also key to guarantee that children are not forgotten, denied their rights or hidden from the progress of their nation.”
She emphasized that birth registration as an essential component of a country’s civil registry, also strengthened the quality of vital statistics, aiding planning and government efficiency.
Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms Assistant Chief (Health), Dr Mirza Asad Ali Baig said that CRVS systems were a fundamental function of the government. “The registration of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces and deaths is necessary for safeguarding human, legal, economic, social, cultural and democratic rights to which person is entitled”, he opined.
He further said that in recent years, the government had demonstrated increased commitment to social sector development and a comprehensive multi-sectoral CRVS strategy had been put in place. He added that in accordance with Goal 1 of the Asia-Pacific Regional Action Framework, Pakistan was committed to achieving universal birth registration by 2024, and by 2025, all people of Pakistan would benefit from universal and responsive CRVS systems that facilitate the realization of their rights and support good governance, health and development. He said that Digital Registration System launched last year in Punjab and Sindh would go a long way in achieving positive results.
Technical Advisor to the CRVS Technical Support Unit, Dr S.M. Mursalin, gave a presentation on various dimensions of civil registration system. He was of the view that a birth certificate could safeguard a child’s right to education, health, justice and protection from violence, early marriage and child labour.
UHS Immunology department’s head Prof Dr Nadeem Afzal said that subject of CRVS was multidisciplinary in nature. He added that barriers to registering a child’s birth existed both on the supply and the demand side.
“On supply side, there are factors such as lack of capacity in our institutions, lack of incentives for staff and technological barriers. On demand side, many parents simply do not see any benefit in registering their child at birth. Poverty, illiteracy and lack of services in different areas compound this barrier”, Prof Nadeem explained.

UHS Registrar Dr Asad Zaheer said that CRVS data was critical to support the functioning of National Health System and Pakistan had been identified as one of the six priority countries by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) where the CRVS strengthening would be undertaken during coming years. The seminar was a step in that direction.
NADRA’s Civil Registration Management System (CRMS) director, Maj (R) Aftab Malik, gave an overview of the registration system. He said that Punjab had the highest whereas Balochistan the lowest rate of birth registration.

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