PRESS STATEMENT | Department of Health and Department of Home Affairs to provide proof of birth for all children

Date: 17/06/2021

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), SECTION27 and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), organisations working and advocating the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, undocumented persons and persons affected by statelessness, have become aware of a concerning practice at various health care facilities in Gauteng that involves discrimination against marginalised groups.

Our offices have received several queries from parents who are incorrectly charged for reproductive health services, including prenatal, birthing and antenatal services. This is despite the National Health Care Act stating that the Department of Health (DoH) must provide: ‘pregnant and lactating women and children below the age of six years, who are not members or beneficiaries of medical aid schemes, with free health services.’ The provision of these services in no way excludes refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, undocumented persons and persons affected by statelessness, who are equally entitled to these basic health care services under the Constitution of South Africa.

Furthermore, it has come to our attention that some facilities in Gauteng are deliberately withholding the proof of birth, a document essential to registering a child’s birth, from patients who are unable to settle their hospital bills. This is in contradiction to the joint circular of the DHA and the DoH on the completion of proof of birth forms (dated 25 October 2016), which requires officials to ensure that the proof of birth form is completed for every child before the child leaves the health care facility.

In terms of the Constitution and other international human rights instruments, which South Africa is bound to, including the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: every child has a right to birth registration. The refusal to issue the proof of birth form particularly based on a payment that the parent cannot afford, is discriminatory and violates a child’s rights.

Without birth registration, children are essentially not recognised by the state and risk being excluded from accessing basic human rights and services, including education, health care and social services. Without birth registration children are at a heightened risk of becoming stateless.

We have written to both DHA and DoH making them aware of this unlawful practice and have requested the following:

  1. the DOH to inform all administrators at DOH facilities of the rights of patients regarding access to birth registration and that fees for reproductive health services are made freely available for all persons;
  2. the DOH to urgently issue the proof of birth certificates to the clients listed in an attachment to our letter;
  3. the DHA to issue a communication informing and emphasising the obligation of DOH facilities to provide the proof of birth to enable the registration of births and safeguard the best interests of every child.

For more information please contact:

Abigail Dawson | Advocacy Coordinator, Jesuit Refugee Service | Email:
Thandeka Chauke | Head of Statelessness Unit, Lawyers for Human Rights | Email:
Sibusisiwe Ndlela | Attorney, SECTION27 | Email:

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