UNICEF decries apathy towards birth registration in Nigeria

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By Ibeneme Ebelechukwu in Abuja

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has stressed the need for countries,  including Nigeria, to take the registration of its citizens’ birth and death very serious noting that if not,  progress towards achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals would remain elusive.

Deputy representative UNICEF Nigeria, Mr Pernille Ironside stated this in his goodwill message at the dissemination event on the impact evaluation report of birth registration programme in Nigeria.

He lamented that “despite the importance of ensuring the registration of every child’s birth, the births of nearly 230 million children under the age of five worldwide have never been officially recorded. In Nigeria, only 30 per cent of children under the age of 5 have had their births registered”

“Birth registration – the official recording of a child’s birth by the government – establishes the existence of a child under law and provides the foundation for safeguarding many of a child’s civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that every child has the right to be registered at birth, without any discrimination.

The recording of births – and deaths  – is essential for a modern administrative system. It helps to create an inclusive society, protecting human rights, ensuring proper delivery of public services and tackling inequalities. 

He also added ‘that a reliable and well-functioning civil registration system was  crucial for monitoring progress towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Also, he stated that the vital statistic,  from a civil registration system provides critical, up-to-date and accurate population-based data that is disaggregated by sex, age and geographic location, adding “this is essential for identifying all groups in need and where we need to put our efforts and resources, to make sure no one is left behind.” 

It does this by helping us to monitor other targets of the SDGs that are related to health, food-security, clean water, education, migration and gender.

The UNICEF boss also stressed that birth registration remains a critical part of UNICEF’s four pillars of child rights programming:  survival, development, protection and participation which he said underscored why UNICEF has been working with the Nigerian Government to address systemic bottlenecks that impede birth registration, with a view to achieving sustainable results for children. 

“We sought this independent impact evaluation of UNICEF Nigeria’s Birth Registration Programme because we wanted to know what worked – and perhaps what didn’t work as well – in our efforts to strengthen the birth registration system in Nigeria.

“What we found was that Nigeria’s rapid population growth requires stronger efforts to ensure that birth registration can keep pace with that growth – especially in the under-5 population. 

This finding points us in the right direction for our future work on this important issue – and our work to deliver results for children and change children’s lives for the better. 

He however pledged the agency’s continuous commitment to support inter-agency collaboration to achieve accelerated birth registration, so that no child is left behind.

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