By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that despite significant increase in birth registration, 17 million of Nigeria’s children remain ‘invisible’.
UNICEF made this known in a new report on global birth registration released yesterday.
According to the report, the number of children whose births are officially registered has increased significantly in Nigeria from 30 per cent in 2013 to 43 per cent in 2018 by integrating birth registration into health services. “Still, about 17 million children under-5, or 1 in 5, remain unregistered, according to a
“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,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
“These children are uncounted and unaccounted for – nonexistent 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.”
Worldwide, 166 million children under-five, or 1 in 4, remain unregistered, according to the new report Birth Registration for Every Child by 2030: Are we on track? – which analyses data from 174 countries and shows that the proportion of children under-five registered globally is up around 20 per cent from 10 years ago – increasing from 63 per cent to 75 per cent.
In West and Central Africa, under-five registration increased in 10 years from 41 per cent to 51 per cent, 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 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 immunization 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 per cent) and Guinea-Bissau (24 per cent).
Barriers to high registration coverage in Nigeria include 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.