The armed conflict which broke out in South Sudan on 15 December 2013 triggered mass displacement, with hundreds ofthousands of South Sudanese fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety, including Uganda, where almost 1 million South Sudanese refugees are being hosted in settlements in the north of the country. 64% of the South Sudanese refugee population are children (31.1 % girls, 32.8% boys) and 33% identified as adolescents. Since 2013 birth registration services have been offered sporadically, in limited locations, and in-line with funding availability. No continuous birth registration service is currently available in the refugee settlements of Northern Uganda.
The BRiE model currently being piloted was developed by completing the BRiE toolkit steps 2 and 3 of the Analyse phase and steps 1, 2 and 3 of Design (all completed within 6 weeks). The following BRiE interventions are included in the model:
Late registration drives: recognising the fact that a large number of South Sudanese refugee children born in Uganda had not been registered, mass registration was done in 2 settlements and 2 host communities in Adjumani in June 2017.
In the settlements, 1,492 South Sudanese girls and 1,220 South Sudanese boys were registered and issued with birth certificates.
- Community leaders were mobilised, sensitised on birth registration and its importance, and trained on how to complete the birth registration form.
- Leaders completed forms in the community (in whichever manner was most effective in their location) and delivered these to Assistant Settlement Commanders.
- Assistant Settlement Commanders delivered the forms and supporting documentation to a mobile team from the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA)
- NIRA inputted data from each form into the birth registration system and printed certificates.
- Certificates were then issued via Settlement Commanders and Community Leaders.
Continuous birth registration services: to ensure that all South Sudanese refugee children born in Uganda are registered immediately, an ongoing process is being tested at health facilities and refugee registration points. The process has Midwives, responsible for completing the child health card after birth, and refugee registration agents, responsible for adding the child to the attestation card, complete the declaration form after they gather similar data for their own purposes. Using existing movement of personnel, these forms are then delivered to the District Registration Office and then the NIRA regional office for processing and printing of birth certificates. These birth certificates will then be redistributed through the same channels, within a 6 week period.
- Local and National civil registration staff were oriented on the structures and workings of the refugee settlements, an unfamiliar structure to them.
- Local Leaders were trained on the importance of birth registration and a birth certificate – these leaders became “change champions” in the community.
A number of legal and policy items have been identified to improve birth registration rates, including the waiving of fees for a birth certificate for Ugandan nationals.
- Information about the process is being disseminated through community leaders, local radio stations, health personnel, religious leaders and community groups e.g. women’s groups.
- Preconceptions about birth registration and its links with nationality were dispelled and people were informed about the benefits and value of a birth certificate.
The BRiE model is currently being continuously monitored and evaluated, before documenting the approach and associated SoPs for use by NIRA and other partners. Risks (child protection and other) are also being identified on an ongoing basis and mitigation actions implemented.
- Awareness of birth registration and its importance, created through communications activities, has created demand for the service amongst parents/caregivers.
- The analysis activities involved in designing the BRiE intervention has created renewed interest in addressing challenges associated with birth registration within settlements and host communities from both government, UN agencies and Civil Society Organisations.
- Partner organisations working in other settlements in Northern Uganda have observed the process and would like to replicate it where they work.
1. Difference in services for refugees vs. nationals: Birth certificates are free for refugee children born in Uganda but for Ugandan Nationals there is a fee. These differing requirements has the potential to cause conflict so the project had to ensure that birth registration drives are not conducted simultaneously and sensitisation was conducted around the reasons why the fee structure is different prior to implementation.
2. Change of roles & responsibilities: The different roles and responsibilities within the settlement was not immediately known by all actors involved in the birth registration process, so actors required orientation on how things work in the refugee environment before they could effectively be a part of the process.
3. Inability to share data between actors: Much of the data gathered through other processes that interact with children in the settlement e.g. child health data and refugee registration, includes data required for birth registration. Yet, to date none of the relevant line ministries are able to share data. This results in parents having to provide the same information into 3 numerous systems on 3 separate occasions, understandably causing confusion around the difference between a birth notification, birth registration, and refugee registration.
4. Requirements for supporting documentation: photocopies of identification documents of parents were required as evidence to complete the birth registration process. Finding an accessible photocopier within the settlements was difficult and required additional effort and coordination to fulfil the requirements.
1. Be aware of the differences in birth registration services between refugee and host communities. Observe differences in process, availability and fees and consider when best to provide these services to each population. In the meantime, refer to the BRiE Advocacy Guide for advocacy guidance on this topic.
2. Identify existing services/registration points that already gather data required for birth registration and explore whether these processes could be used for birth registration. Advocate for the use of existing data sources for the purposes of birth registration and support in the development of safe, secure and ethical data sharing protocols.