Covid-19 creates birth certificate backlog
No children born after March 30 this year have birth certificates, one of the biggest groups missing critical documents since the Registrar General’s office decided only burial orders would be issued under the Covid-19 decongestion programme.
While the Birth and Deaths Registration Act says a child must be registered within 42 days, six weeks, of birth, the Registrar General’s office has told parents not to worry as every unregistered birth will be tracked as soon as the circumstances allow.
Responding to questions, Acting Registrar General Mr Henry Machiri said no penalties will be levied for late registrations.
“Covid-19 negatively affected issuance of birth certificates. Due to Government measures that were put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19, only issuance of burial orders was considered an essential service while other services were temporarily suspended.
“Birth registration is currently low since the offices are not open to the public for birth registration except for emergency cases,” Mr Machiri said.
Although he could not provide numbers to give a full picture of the backlog, the department acknowledged the ballooning gap.
“These restrictions have created a backlog. All children born before the period will be registered after the containment measures have been lifted.
“Once the restrictions are lifted, the department will put in place measures to ensure that all births that occurred during the lockdown and all unregistered births born before the period are registered,” said Machiri.
The department says it intends to put its decentralised structure to good use when the issuing of documents resumes.
Mr Machiri said the 42-day deadline in the Births and Deaths Registration Act was overtaken by the Public Health (Covid-19) Prevention, Containment and
Treatment Order that directed the closure of Public Departments except essential services.”
On average, Zimbabwe receives just over 400 000 births annually, this means the backlog which has run for over six months could be running into 200 000 unregistered births.
The Registrar General’s department has, however, not been sitting on its laurels as it recently said that is has managed to reduce 20 percent of the country’s passport backlog during this lockdown.
These are passports where the forms had been submitted, but the actual documents not produced. The production does not involve the presence of the public.