HEALTH institutions that withhold birth records from new mothers for non-payment of medical fees for maternity services rendered to them risk being sanctioned by Government as they are violating children’s rights to be registered.

A birth record is a document given free of charge to a new mother soon after birth of a child confirming place and time of birth and it is the one used to apply for a birth certificate for infants. Registrar-General Mr Henry Tawona Machiri said the Civil Registry Department has received numerous reports of hospitals and clinics that allegedly withhold birth records when mothers fail or have not paid maternity fees. 

birth certificate

This has resulted in many children failing or delaying to get birth certificates. Some institutions go on to demand a search fee when parents later want the document and Mr Machiri said this was illegal and should stop forthwith. 

“I will repeat this because I want the nation to know with regards to births that occur at medical institutions that the mother is given what we call a birth confirmation record. It is this record that they then bring to our offices to register their child. We have had cases of medical institutions that withhold these documents and children don’t get registered,” said Mr Machiri.

He was speaking in Victoria Falls at the Comprehensive Assessment of Zimbabwe Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) and Identity Management Systems conference which ended on Friday. 

He said a birth confirmation record is a free document issued to hospitals and clinics with maternity services and demanding any form of payment for it was illegal. 

Mr Machiri said institutions wishing to recover their expenses should find other means other than depriving the child of a right to be documented.

“This document is issued to medical institutions for free by the Civil Registry Department but the worrisome factor is that there are some institutions which then withhold this form from the parent because the parent would not have paid for whatever medical services offered to her. 

“So we are saying that is an unfair practice which should be stopped forthwith because by withholding that document you are preventing registration of a child which is a right,” warned Mr Machiri.

Registrar-General Mr Henry Machiri

He said his department had raised a complaint with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and also engaged private hospitals about the issue. He said sometimes parents are made to pay a search fee when they  approach the health facility to collect the birth confirmation record. 

“I am appealing to hospitals to note that this is a free document which Government is paying for and we are issuing it to medical institutions for free,” he said.

The week-long conference was attended by all departments responsible for registration of citizens, including the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Social Welfare Department and police.

It sought to assess civil registry systems to identify strengths and weaknesses so as to come up with strategies of improvement in implementation of a resolution made at the second Conference of Africa Ministers Responsible for Civil Registrations that all Africa Union member states should have Comprehensive assessments for their registration systems and vital statistics.–@ncubeleon