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Dr. Ferguson emphasizes importance of the birth certificate

Minister of Health Dr. Fenton Ferguson (left), cuts the ribbon to launch the Registrar General’s Department’s (RGD) new mobile unit on the grounds of the Wesleyan Holiness Church in Port Morant, St. Thomas yesterday (Jan. 23). Sharing the moment are Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the RGD, Deirdre English Gosse; and Acting Deputy Representative, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica, Erica Mattelone. Minister of Health Dr. Fenton Ferguson (left), cuts the ribbon to launch the Registrar General’s Department’s (RGD) new mobile unit on the grounds of the Wesleyan Holiness Church in Port Morant, St. Thomas yesterday (Jan. 23). Sharing the moment are Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the RGD, Deirdre English Gosse; and Acting Deputy Representative, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica, Erica Mattelone.
PORT MORANT, St. Thomas, January 24, 2015 - Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has underscored the need for every Jamaican to have a birth certificate as it is one of the required documents to access vital social services such as education and employment.

“I believe that having a birth certificate, creating an identity for individuals and a legal status, is important to every citizen of Jamaica…we have to call on our people to make sure that they get their birth certificates, because it is so important to very citizen,” he said.

Dr. Ferguson was delivering the main address at Thursday’s (January 23) launch of the Registrar General’s Department’s (RGD) mobile unit on the grounds of the Wesleyan Holiness Church in Port Morant, St. Thomas. The occasion also signalled the reactivation of the agency’s mobile outreach team.

Acquired at a cost of approximately $6 million through funding from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the unit, which is a retrofitted bus, will be used to conduct outreach programmes in remote areas, to provide valuable information and accept applications for a variety of services.

Particular focus will be placed on the registration of children 12 years and under, who are without a certified copy of their birth certificate.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), RGD, Deirdre English Gosse, informed that the acquisition of the bus was the result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the RGD and UNICEF in 2012.

This is in keeping with UNICEF’s goal to register all children under age 12 in the region by 2015.

“The resumption of the mobile unit is very timely, and will assist in the agency’s drive to promote the right of every child to be registered at birth, receive a name and legal existence,” the CEO said.

Acting Deputy Representative, UNICEF Jamaica, Erica Mattelone, praised the RGD for its hard work in increasing birth registration in Jamaica.

She noted that UNICEF had partnered with the RGD on a two-year drive, between 2011 and 2013, to register and certify persons, and getting to families in remote areas was a challenge identified during this exercise.

Mrs. Mattelone said she was happy that the unit will be targeting these “hard-to-reach areas”.

She noted that while it is commendable that Jamaica has a high birth registration rate of 98 per cent, more than 200,000 children under age 12, which represent one-fifth of the age cohort, do not have a birth certificate.

“We hope that the mobile unit will reach families far and wide, in every nook and cranny of Jamaica, allowing thousands more children to get the official passport to protection which is their right,” she said.

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