The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) observed on Monday in Awka, Anambra State capital, that the birth of about 57 per cent of Nigerian children under five years of age was not registered and, therefore, do not have birth certificates.
In fact, many teenage Nigerians don’t have birth certificates either and only became conscious of that when they take entrance examinations into universities.
The UNICEF Zone A field officer, Enugu, Mr Victor Atuchukwu, revealed this at the training of 75 health workers from selected health facilities in the 21 local government areas of Anambra State.
But Atuchukwu said it is the right of every child to have a birth certificate and regretted that many parents do not consider it important.
He urged the health workers to ensure that all babies born in their areas of coverage were registered at birth as that would assist in social and economic planning in the country.
Although he identified lack of adequate manpower as contributing to the problem, Atuchulwu observed that without a birth certificate, time would come when the child would have the need to present a birth certificate only to be discovered that he or she has no official record of full names, place of birth and other vital information.
He said that at such a time, their access to basic needs would be under threat, regretting that most of the local government areas in the state record below average in birth registration.
Director of the NPC in Anambra State, Mr Joachim Ulasi, who admitted that the Commission does not have enough manpower for birth registration, said that the state had only 148 registration centres in the 181 communities for over 4,000 health facilities in the state.
Ulasi said: “We just have 148 registration centres, comprising 21 controllers who are deputy chief registrars for the 21 local government areas. If they are removed from the 148, we are left with 127, which are located in health facilities throughout Anambra State.
This number is not enough. We have 181 autonomous communities and we need at least one centre in each community while the large communities should have two or more.
“People are not aware of the importance of birth registration in Nigeria. In this country, many women give birth and do not care about the registration of that baby until the person has the need to go to the bank or seek admission into institutions of learning after 18 years. There is, therefore, need for sensitization of the population on the issue.
“Nearness to the registration centre is also another challenge facing birth registration as many parents become disillusioned to travel long distances to register their babies after birth.”
Ulasi, however, explained that NPC had concluded plans to digitalize the birth registration exercise in the state, adding that the two staff of the Commission that will train Anambra NPC officials participated in a national training workshop at Akwanga, Nasararwa State which ended weekend and the domestication in Anambra State will start in the new two weeks.
The digitization is also sponsored by UNICEF and few states in the North have already keyed into the exercise, with some of the states already test running the programme, he concluded.