KINGSTON — Some 6,000 children under five years old, from impoverished rural communities, are to be provided with free birth certificates through several registration fairs across the island.
This birth certification initiative, which is to begin this month and continue into October, results from a partnership between the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Registrar General's Department (RGD), with the Fund providing some $8.5 million towards the project.
Speaking at a meeting, held at the Medallion Hall Hotel in Kingston, on August 31, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the RGD, Dr. Patricia Holness, said that according to the Department's statistics, approximately 33,000 children under five years old do not have birth certificates.
She explained that while the fairs will target the 6,000 children, some of whom may not be registered, may not have been named, or had been named but had not yet made an application, the fairs will also provide parents and caregivers with the option of registering the remaining children.
"We anticipate we will host 14 birth certification fairs in parishes across the island, and provide the opportunity for the additional 27,000 children to obtain their birth certificates as well," Dr. Holness said.
She pointed out that the registration fairs will start in Kingston, followed by St. Catherine, then Manchester.
In her remarks, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF, Janet Cupidon-Quallo, said the agency has taken a decision to support efforts to accelerate birth registration worldwide, particularly in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
"A goal has been established, and that is to ensure the registration of all children under five in the region by 2015, and this year, we determined to support the efforts of the RGD in this regard," she said.
She said the process should not only involve the RGD and UNICEF, and encouraged other Government agencies, non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) and faith-based organisations, "to motivate and do whatever it takes to get the parents to come out and take advantage of this excellent opportunity that will be provided over the next few months, to ensure that their children who have not yet been registered will get a birth certificate."
Meanwhile, CEO of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Donna-Marie Rowe, pledged the agency's support for the initiative.
"The JIS with all the various media at our disposal – radio, print, television and the internet, as well as town criers – will be supporting this initiative and ensuring that care givers across the island, parents and guardians, are informed about the fairs as well as the initiative to get all our children in some of these challenged communities registered," she said.
By Alecia Smith, JIS Reporter