US Ambassador speech at the announcement of results of phase-III of mass registration campaign

Ambassador Palmer (L) and Home Affairs Minister Grace Chiumia.
Ambassador Palmer (L) and Home Affairs Minister Grace Chiumia.

Speech by the Ambassador of United States of America, Virginia Palmer, at the Joint-Press Conference announcing results of Phase-III of the Mass Registration Campaign on 13th September 2017 in Blantyre. Ms. Palmer represented development partners supporting the registration campaign.

Honorable Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Affairs Grace Chiumia, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues, all protocols observed.

It gives me great pleasure to be here in Blantyre today to mark the release of the official results for the Mass Registration Campaign in Malawi’s most populous region.

On behalf of all Development Partners, I congratulate the Honorable Minister, the staff at the National Registration Bureau and the whole NRIS project team for achieving the target once again.

The numbers speak for themselves. Malawians want to be registered!

And this is only the beginning. After the five phases of the mass registration campaign are completed continuous registration for all districts will commence in 2018 and the NRB is already preparing for this. It is just as important as the mass registration – all Malawians must be granted the opportunity to register as citizens, or the National ID will not benefit the whole nation.

Soon the ID cards will arrive to be distributed to the people who will have registered during the campaign. When the first Malawians hold this card in their hands, with its chip carrying their unique Bio-metric data as registered citizens, what will their expectations be? How will the card improve their lives?

The UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 16.9 refers to providing a legal identify for all and NRIS has emphasized ever since this project was introduced that you can’t lift people out of poverty if you can’t identify them. The ID numbers of all registered Malawians will dramatically improve the government’s ability to deliver services to the citizens.

This means that it falls upon Branches of Government and major institutions in the society to build their capacity to grant the registered citizens, who are now able to present an ID card, access to legal assistance and other social protections, allowances, health care, education, technology, bank accounts and credits, in short, the fundamentals for the continued development of Malawi.

One priority for the U.S. Government and its Agencies, as well as for U.S. charities such as the Clinton Foundation, is to improve the health conditions for the children and all citizens of Malawi. Recording births is key in this endeavor. The U.S. Public Health Institute CDC is helping NRB to improve child registration and I commend NRB for its public announcement that all birth certificates will now carry a unique national ID number.

The card will also enable the Government to start producing e-health passports which will improve access to health services and save time and lives. The Government must now ensure that with its increasing investment in public health, capacities are built in to utilize this new technology.

When these are in place, the Malawians with their e-health passports will get treatment faster in hospitals and health clinics because their medical histories are instantly accessible. If they live in remote villages, health workers visiting them can still access their profiles on mobile devices and have a better chance of giving the right treatment. Their medication can be ordered on the spot.

On a final note, let me just remind you: there can be no doubt that the more than 4000 registration staff are the backbone of this campaign. These young women and men have displayed their immense aptitude in carrying out Phase 3, not only in operating the cutting-edge technology of the Bio-metric registration kits, but as well in coping with difficult circumstances in all corners of this vast region. The numbers being released today are testament to your hard work.