– Thirty-five million Nigerian children under the age of five are said to be unregistered
– The children contribute to the 85 million of other under five unregistered children across Africa
– According to UNICEF, appropriate birth registration helps protect children from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect as stipulated under Article 19 of the UN convention
Across Africa, there are 85 million children under the age of five who are yet to be registered. Among these unregistered under five children, 35 million of them are from Nigeria, a report has said.
The report clearly noted that only about 8% of the under five children born in Nigeria are duly registered.
Speaking during a media dialogue in partnership with National Population Commission (NPopc), and the ministry of information in Lagos, a UNICEF child protection specialist, Sharon Oladiji, said there is need for a sustained birth registration process in Nigeria.
Oladiji while quoting the National Demographic Health Survey, 2013 said, only 44% of Africa’s births are registered, leaving an estimated 85 million children under five unregistered.
She however, added that the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 5 data shows that 46.8% of under five Nigerian children are registered.
Oladiji said: “Eight of the 10 countries with the lowest levels of birth registration are in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Nigeria having the largest population of unregistered children.”
Listing the risks of having unregistered Nigerian children, Oladiji said, the children lacked record of their nationality, visibility, and right to child protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect as stipulated under Article 19 of the UN convention.
She said: “There is no official record of their full names, parents, place of birth, date of birth and their nationality.”
“Their access to basic services is under threat, their official ‘invisibility’ increases their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation In legal terms they do not exist!
“Violations of their rights are going unnoticed,” Oladiji said.
She added that appropriate child birth registration helps to provide legal and documentary evidence to certify a person’s existence, age, percentage, birth place and nationality.
The child protection expert said it also enables a person’s eligibility for health care, admission into school, voting and obtaining a passport, employment, marriage.
“It helps to check incidences of child abuse, child trafficking, early marriages, child labour, and unlawful detention.
It is critical for the Nigerian child: survival, health, education, social services initiatives and development goals,” she added.
She further noted that the UNICEF is assisting the Nigerian government through the NPopc to improve collection, collation, management and use of birth registration data.
According to her, the international agency through this partnership is providing technical back-end management support – through local level consultants – to ensure optimal functionality of the RapidSMS dashboard and applications which has been designed to help identify the gaps in birth registration data report at the local level and disparities in service delivery.
The RapidSMS, Oladiji said, helps facilitate prompt interventions in areas where birth registration coverage is low, and measures how programmatic interventions affect birth registration levels.
“With its decentralized and real-time monitoring system, RapidSMS provides constant feedback from the LGA to the state and national level managers, which enables them to make programmatic changes and assess the results,” she said.
The system has also strengthened the monitoring process of the performance of birth registration services across all 774 LGAs and 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory on a monthly basis.
Also speaking, at the dialogue, the minister of information, Lai Mohammed, said Nigeria is considering the registration of 20 million children for the Integrated Birth Registration uptake approach.
Mohammed represented by the deputy director/ head, Advocacy Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB)at the ministry, Olumide Osanyinpeju, said there is need to secure proper identification for every Nigerian child.
Osanyinpeju said: “It is worthy to note, at this juncture, that it has really been an uphill task registering the birth of children in Nigerian states due to a host of unfavourable factors ranging from ignorance on the part of civil society on the importance of birth registration.”
“The large number of babies delivered at home rather than in health facilities, to lack of manpower needed to register the births of most children.
“The low level, or apparently lack, of awareness on the importance of birth registration has resulted in lack of planning for children and improper capturing of this most important segment of our society in developmental and social processes that affect them,” Osanyinpeju said.
He called effective solutions to enlighten parents from the homes and communities through a widespread media campaign aimed at creating awareness at all levels of governance and the civil society.
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com previously reported that the MICS 5 report had said that only one out of four Nigerian children receive recommended vaccination annually across Nigeria.
The report said, although Nigeria has made great strides in reducing death of children under the age of five from 158 to 120 per 1,000 births between 2011 and 2016, the coverage of the main vaccines offered through routine immunization has declined.
Also in a statement UNICEF said the immunization coverage for pentavalent vaccine between the 36 states varies dramatically from 80% in Lagos to 3% in Sokoto.
The agency said this coverage is still below the recommended global goal of 90% for all the vaccine.
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