For Reino Kampende it is an early Christmas gift: His children are finally proud owners of national documents. Nineteen-year-old Hendrik and 16-year-old Elina got identification cards while Isaka and Andreas, eight and five years old respectively, received their birth certificates. “I am the happiest father in the world,” says Kampende. The family had missed out on several opportunities to obtain social grants just because the children had no national documents.
The tide turned in Kampende’s favor when the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security started an outreach program to document orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) with support from the Reach Namibia program. The program is funded by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Intrahealth Namibia as well as Project Hope Namibia.
Reach Namibia made it possible for 781 OVCs in the Kavango East and West regions to receive national documents. According to Intrahealth Namibia’s Dr. Samson Ndhlovu who is responsible for the program in these regions, the need was established through household assessments that showed that many orphans and vulnerable children did not have national documents.
“We found that most parents or guardians of these children do not know the importance or how to apply for these crucial documents. They also don’t have the financial means to travel to the next Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security office,” Dr. Ndhlovu explains the challenges for many living in Namibia’s rural areas.
The aim of the outreach initiative was to create awareness and most critically, to bring services to the people to issue them with national documents including birth certificates. These documents are especially important for people who are already struggling with numerous bread-and-butter issues in their everyday lives.
“National documents are a requirement for many public and private services, such as accessing social grants, pursuing studies, or simply getting a job. Not having a birth certificate makes it harder to access these services and creates further insecurities for orphans and vulnerable children,” highlights USAID Country Representative, Dr. McDonald Homer.
More than 3,000 people received national documents when the outreach initiative was expanded to other community members. Among them are the children of 34-year-old Elina Sintungu, a resident of Nzinze Village which is located 12 kilometers away from the regional capital of Kavango West, Nkurenkuru.
“Although I had my own national documents, I did not have the money to take my children to the Home Affairs office in Nkurenkuru,” says Elina. “Only now, when the Ministry people came to the region, I was able to obtain their birth certificates, get information and initiate first steps to apply for a social grant for them”.
The Reach Namibia program, funded by the American people, works with local partner organizations to provide integrated health and social services to children, adolescents, and youth. One of the key interventions is to inform caregivers and parents about the importance of birth registration and how to apply for national documents.