The United Nations Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF, said, yesterday, that only 50 per cent of births in Nigeria were registered.
Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF, Ibrahim Sesay, who disclosed this at a briefing to mark the 2021 Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Day in Abuja, said the existence of accurate, regular and reliable statistics was imperative for evidence-based decision making in any country as well as in emergency response.
Sesay spoke as the National Population Commission, NPC, disclosed plans to commence digitisation of all registration centres in 774 local government areas of the country to upscale birth registration in Nigeria.
According to him, more than 50 per cent of births of children under the age of five in Nigeria are still unregistered, which contributes 11 per cent of unregistered births in West Africa.
He said UNICEF had triggered a scalable process of assisting the NPC to strengthen and accelerate birth registration service delivery at state and community levels, with a focus to register about 25 million children between 2021 and 2025.
He said: “UNICEF is supporting the development of a roadmap for digital birth registration to guide CRVS partners, who are seeking opportunities to achieve greater impact, efficiency and efficacy in a digital universal birth registration system in Nigeria.
“There is a clear agenda to optimize NPC work patterns and community level actions for cost-effective birth registration programming employed with the establishment of a network of registrars capacitated to register children using electronic devices at the state, local government, wards and community levels.
“The birth registration is a child’s right to a name and an identity that should not be denied any child. With the setting aside of August 10 as the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics day, we are encouraged that civil and birth registration is getting the attention it deserves as a constituent part of the child’s right to development and protection.”
He assured that UNICEF would develop a comprehensive communications and awareness-raising strategy at the national and local levels to create and sustain a demand for birth registration services among parents at the LGA and communities.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Committee Chairman, Civil Registration and Vital Statistics at NPC, Dr. Ismaila Suleiman, said the objective of the celebration was to inspire member states o accelerate the implementation of the civil registration and vital statistics on the continent in line with global best practices.
Civil registration includes: registration of births, deaths, marriages, migration which help in providing statistical data needed in planning the attainment of development goals with the potential to improve the well-being of the people.
Speaking at the event, Chairman, National Population Commission, NPC, Nasir Kwarra, said the commission had commenced the digitisation of all the registration centres in the 774 LGA headquarters.
He said the commission was worried about the low rate of birth registration in the country due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic that has weakened the structures of the civil registration system in many African countries.
He explained that the ongoing automation process, which was already being piloted in the FCT, Abuja, was in line with the vision of African Union leaders and SDG goals.
Kwarra said the commission currently had 4011 registration centres spread across the 774 LGAs of the country but noted that the commission was working with development partners to increase it to 8,000 required to achieve optimal result.
Besides this, he said the commission was also collaborating with most health centres and local governments, which personnel assist their registrars in collecting information on death and births in their facilities.
According to him, currently, about 43% of under- 5 children are registered at birth and not more than 10% of deaths are registered in Nigeria.
‘’What this translates into is that many are born and die without leaving a trace of their existence in any legal records in the country,’’ he said.
This, according to Kwarra, attributable to a whole range of causative factors, including but not limited to geographiphic, cultural and traditional reasons.
He expressed optimism that the automation process, when fully automated nationwide, would significantly enhance the operational efficiency of the vital registration system in Nigeria
The NPC boss said the celebration of CRVS Day was in pursuant to the recommendation of conference of Africa Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration held in Nouakchott, Mauritania in 2017 and endorsed by the Executive Council of the African Union the following year.
“The purpose of the celebration was to increase public awareness on the importance of timely registration of vital events, particularly births and deaths, through well-functioning civil registration and vital systems.
“The CRVS Day provides us with an opportunity for a reflection on the legal identity from birth to death of all persons and the realization of key human and civil rights, including the right to participate in society and economy and the right to access social services.
“This can only be attained when the rights and civil liberties are found and strengthened by an efficient and effective civil registration and vital statistics systems that are inclusive, permanent, continuous, compulsory and confidential in nature,’’ he said.
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