The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said Nigeria has the highest number of children without birth records among ten nations assessed in Africa.
UNICEF urged the federal government to intensify birth registration for proper education and healthcare planning.
The UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Sharon Oladiji, stated this at a media dialogue on Thursday in Lagos. The event was attended by officials of the National Population Commission (NPC), the agency responsible for census, birth registration and others.
Mrs Oladiji said the NPC has millions of children, whose births had not been registered, due to their remote locations, insecurity, shortage of manpower, among other factors.
“The federal government must ensure the birth registration of 32 million under-five children in the country to properly plan for their education, healthcare and other services. We need birth records for them because this is critical for their education, health and other social initiatives,” she said.
She said only nine per cent of the under-five which is 2.8 million children, had birth certificates across the 36 states. She added that the absence of birth records had hindered proper education and socio-economic planning by the government.
“Only 44 per cent of Africa’s birth are registered leaving an estimated 85 million children under five unregistered,” she said.
According to her, a special attention is required for the under-five children in Nigeria. This number of children is projected to increase from 32 million in 2015 to 58 million by 2050 she added.
“Birth registration will help to provide planning in education, health, social security and insurance. Registering the child will enable the government to plan and implement education and health policies,” she said.
She said while data is so difficult to come by in Nigeria, “we cannot effectively plan for our children if we do not know their population and spread through birth registration”.
“This birth registration is the conscious, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of birth as provided by regulation in accordance with legal requirements.”
She said UNICEF is assisting the Nigerian government through the NPC to improve collection, collation, management and use of birth registration data to ensure optimal functionality of the process.
“Rapidsms deployment is designed to help identify the gaps in birth registration data reports at the local level and disparities in service delivery,” she said.
The NPC in a briefing revealed the statistics of under-five children registered nationwide, with 22 states registering only three to 10 per cent.
The NPC Vital Registration Director, Hapsatu Isiyaku, said the births were registered in 3,641 centres across the 774 Local Government Areas in the country.
The Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed, had earlier said “lack of awareness on the importance of birth registration results in lack of proper planning”.
The minister, who was represented by Osanyin Peju said it is important to create awareness on birth registration across the nation.
“There is need for widespread media càmpaign to enlighten and create awareness in our homes, communities and indeed all levels of government on the need to improve on birth registration especially in the rural areas where a lot of babies are delivered outside the hospitals,” he said.