Eight health organisations from the Thai-Burma border, which have been providing birth certificates and documents to enable children to be properly registered, will discuss their work with Karen State Government departments on 28 November.
The organisations help provide birth certificates and documentation to unregistered children born in the border areas of Karen State, including in Karen National Union (KNU) controlled areas. Once they are registered the children will be Burmese citizens and will be able to claim all their relevant rights and have the same future chances as other Burmese citizens.
The eight organisations are: the KNU Interior and Religious Department, the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW), the Mae Tao Clinic (MTC), the Back Pack Health Worker Team (BPHWT), the Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO), the Burma Medical Association (BMA), the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU), and the Committee for the Protection and Promotion of Child Rights (CPPCR).
Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo, the head of the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW), said to KIC News: “We were working on these issues even before the U Thein Sein administration took office. We are going to observe what the government has done so far and tell them what we have been doing.”
The Karen State Government departments the organisations will meet with to discuss their work are: the General Administration Department, the Immigration Department, the Social Welfare Department, the State Health Department, and the Central Audit Department.
Although border-based health organisations have been meeting separately with officials from the Karen State Government since the preliminary ceasefire was signed in 2012, this will be their first meeting as a group with the Karen State Government.
Health organisations from Burmese refugee camps have also been working together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC) to issue birth certificates to children born both inside Burma and on the Thai-Burma border.
In May 2015 the Burmese Government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) cooperated to issue birth certificates to children from 40 townships in Karen State, Karenni State and Irrawaddy Region.
According to UNICEF 29,160 children under the age of five have been registered in Karen State.
On average 200 children are born every month at the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand. The clinic, which serves Burmese people in the Mae Sot area of Thailand and in the Karen border areas, issues birth certificates that are recognised by the Thai Government. From January till September this year 1,899 Burmese children were born at the clinic.
Despite all these efforts there are still tens of thousands of unregistered children living along the Thai-Burma border in areas that are inaccessible to health organisations.
According to health organisations and child rights groups the future for unregistered children, who are officially stateless, remains very uncertain.
Translated by Thida Linn
Edited in English by Mark Inkey for BNI