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©Terre des Hommes

Sixteen years old Munashe Mhanda sits at the Beitbridge border waiting for his chance to cross into neighbouring South Africa. He is fully aware of the dangers that await him, but the young boy from the Chikombedzi area in Zimbabwe has got no option but cross the Limpopo River to seek better opportunities.

Munashe has no birth certificate or any document of identification. With no passport, his only chance to get to South Africa is to cross the second largest river in the African continent.

The journey, however, reserves many dangers. People who are forced to migrate through this unusual route risk being swept away by the river or else attacked by crocodiles. And even if they successfully cross the river, innumerous difficulties await them on the other side of the border.

To begin with, they are more exposed to violence and abuse, particularly if they are children. With no documents, they are less likely to report when they are victims of crimes, for fear of being detained. In such cases they could also face repatriation, but with no document to prove their nationality, they can be held up beyond the legal days.

Not having a birth certificate can also be an obstacle to family tracing, which is very harmful for unaccompanied children. On top of that, they also encounter several challenges to get employed and thrive in foreign land.

But as Munashe explains, there is

no option, but to take the illegal and dangerous route. I would love to gain entry into South Africa using a passport, but I do not have even a birth certificate. I am following my father who left us many years ago” he adds.

His story is not an exception. Many children in Zimbabwe have no birth certificate, especially in rural areas, where registration facilities are difficult to access. Besides, hospitals or medical facilities withhold birth records unless they pay a fee. In the absence of birth registration, a child cannot access services, entitlements or protection.

If they are undertaking unsafe routes to migrate, just like Munashe, it might be a challenge to properly safeguard them. They are inexistent in the system and therefore much more vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.

In light of the risks faced by children on the move, the Destination Unknown campaign in Zimbabwe is calling on the national government to comply with its duty to safeguard children’s welfare and guarantee children are duly registered after birth. By doing so, much harm can be avoided, especially to when it comes to children on the move.

It is critical to address their struggles and raise awareness throughout the country. One of the best methods to do so is by implementing a much-hyped mobile registration to bring civil registry closer to people in rural areas as well as to educate parents about their child’s right to be registered at birth.

Registering a child’s birth is the first step to safeguarding his or her rights. It is of paramount importance to build a pathway to eradicate the issue and build a more secure future for Zimbabwean children.

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