• Saturday, July 13, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Despite significant increase in birth registration, 17m Nigeria’s children remain ‘invisible’ – UNICEF

Nigerian Children

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced that despite increase recorded in childbirth registration in Nigeria, about 17 million children under age 5, representing 1 in every 5 childbirth are still unregistered.

According to UNICEF global birth registration report, the number of childbirths officially registered increased significantly in Nigeria from 30 percent in 2013 to 43 percent in 2018 by integrating birth registration into health services.

The operation of two parallel and competing systems for birth registration at federal and state levels, insufficient birth registrars, lack of public awareness on the importance of birth registration for children, coupled with ingrained social beliefs that do not encourage the registration of children have been identified as major barriers to high registration coverage in Nigeria.

Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Nigeria, in a statement, said, “We have come a long way in Nigeria and ensuring that children are registered through the health services is making a big difference but still too many children are slipping through the cracks.”

Hawkins stressed that as a result of the unregistered births most children were often excluded from accessing education, health care and other vital services, and were vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

“These children are uncounted and unaccounted for, and are non-existent in the eyes of the government or the law. Without proof of identity, children are often excluded from accessing education, health care and other vital services, and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

“Every child has a right to a name, a nationality and a legal identity. We have just marked the 30th anniversary of these rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and 2020 will mark the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which provides that every child be registered immediately after birth. We must continue to register and not stop until every Nigerian child is registered – every child counts,” he said.

The report shows that globally, 166 million children under-five, or 1 in 4 children is unregistered, while in West and Central Africa, under-five registration increased in 10 years from 41 percent to 51 percent, despite the multiple challenges the region is facing.

“Birth registration in West and Central Africa remained stagnant for a long time, leaving millions of children without their basic right to legal identity. This situation has now changed and millions of more children are registered at birth,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa.

“With UNICEF’s support and under the leadership of the African Union and of national governments, countries have invested in integrating birth registration in health and immunisation platforms to extend the coverage and accessibility of services and reach even the most vulnerable populations. This simple shift in service delivery is not only low cost but effective in increasing national registration rates, contributing to progress in the region as a whole.”

Despite progress, the majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa lag behind the rest of the world and some of the lowest levels of registration are found in Chad 12 percent and Guinea-Bissau 24 percent.

UNICEF in its “Birth Registration for Every Child by 2030” campaign calls for five actions to protect all children,  to include; Provision of certificate upon every child birth, parents empowerment, including single parents, regardless of gender, to register their children at birth and for free during the first year of life.

Others include, linking birth registration to basic services, particularly health, social protection and education, as an entry point for registration, investing in safe and innovative technological solutions to allow every child to be registered, including in hard-to-reach areas and community engagement to demand birth registration for every child.