THE United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, observed Monday in Awka that about 57% of Nigerian children under five years of age do not have birth certificates.
Speaking during the training of 75 health workers from selected health facilities in the 21 local government areas of Anambra State, the child protection specialist in charge of UNICEF Zone A Field office, Enugu, Mr. Victor Atuchukwu said it is the right of every child to have a birth certificate, regretting 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 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 man power for birth registration, said that the state had only148 registration centers in the 181 communities for over 4000 health facilities in the state.
He 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 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 explained that NPC had concluded plans to digitalize the birth registration exercise in the state.
He added: “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 Sate 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.”