By MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
UNICEF has highlighted the causes of low birth registration in Nigeria.
These include “grossly insufficient number of registration centres;” limited financial support for birth registration processes,; lack of awareness of the importance of birth registration as a human right as well as ignorance and illiteracy of the rural men and women on the importance of birth registration.
Other limitations and challenges of birth registration in the country are: decline of women’s access to maternity centres; because of increased poverty and high medical costs; distance to birth registration centres due to bad roads or non-availability of public transport for those who live in rural areas; lack of effective registration infrastructures, and low level of awareness of current registration.
UNICEF expressed surprise that low birth registration can happen in Nigeria in spite of the extant legal frameworks on it in the country.
“The federal government’s decree No. 68 of 1992 on vital registration states that registration shall be carried out free of charge, within a period of 60 days from the date of birth.
“2003: The Child Rights Act in its Section 5 states that: ‘Every child has the right to a name and the birth of every child shall be registered,’” UNICEF pointed out.
It enumerated the benefits of birth registration. They include ensuring that children enrol in school at the appropriate age.
Birth registration, UNICEF said, provides access to health care services and immunization, and it effectively counters the problem of girls being forced into marriage before they are legally eligible, without any proof of age.
According to UNICEF, “about 70 per cent of the five million children born annually in Nigeria are not being registered at birth. They have no birth certificate and in legal terms: they do not exist.
UNICEF warned that the right of children whose births were not registered to an identity, name and nationality is denied and their access to basic services is threatened.