You might think it to be an office which is easily located, where documents are neatly packed and easily found. This is not so with the Births and Deaths Head Office at Wilberforce street.
The sign post of the Office could not be easily noticed and, you would be shocked by the sight of broken chairs and desks, tattered record books, no working computers and outdated shelves. The Births and Deaths Office which you think to be a place where you could log in your details through a data base and is easily found, is not the case.
Awoko paid a visit to the Office to highlight the appalling conditions; and contacted the Ag Deputy Chief Registrar, Births and Deaths Johnson Kargbo, who explained that as of last year they did not receive any supply from Government, except that which they received for the mass registration in the Provinces.
The function of the Office is to oversee the registration of Births and Deaths in the entire country and also the printing of registration materials, including birth and death certificates.
Highlighting some of the problems facing the Department, he said that lack of training for personnel, insufficient materials and the failure on the part of the people on the importance of birth registration, are some of the impediments to their work”.
What perhaps is the most disturbing condition, he explained, is the unkempt state of the old records which he said have worn out, some tattered and torn; “and there is no hope of restoring them by going digital as was preferred by UNICEF”.
Not a single document is computerized at the Births and Deaths Head office in Freetown; unlike that of Kenema, Makeni, Kabala and Bo who have gone digital, thanks to the intervention of UNICEF.
Apart from this, he also narrated the poor conditions of service and the state of the Office. “We have made our plight known to the central Government and they are aware of it and they are au fait with happenings, as most times Government Officials do visit the Office, but the situation remains the same” he said.
He disclosed that every work at the Births and Deaths is done manually, and therefore made a passionate plea to Government and other agencies to come to their aid. Simeone Boima Kuyembeh, Senior Registrar and Officer in charge of Death archives, narrated that they have still not yet got assistance for the office to go digital; but that not withstanding they were doing their bit, working under the under resourced condition. He said most of the records were missing, some worn out whilst others broken and that if urgent steps were not taken, the Births and Deaths stand to loose most documents.
Ellen Stella Kamara in charge of Births and Deaths Archives also expressed similar frustrations, citing the lack of facilities under which they work. She explained that they lack storage facilities and needed computer systems to maintain the existing documents. By Ishmael Bayoh