By Olasunkanmi Onifade
Minister calls for sustained campaign on birth registration
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday called for sustained media campaign at various levels of government to improve birth registration coverage in the country.
Mohammed made the call in Lagos at the Media Dialogue on Birth Registration organised by UNICEF.
The minister was represented by a Deputy Director in the ministry and Head of Advocacy, Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB), Mr Olumide Osanyinpeju
Mohammed said birth registration was important, especially for children in rural areas.
“The need to give identity to every Nigerian child can never be over emphasised, and this is a task that can only be achieved through birth registration, ” he said.
He said birth registration had always been difficult due to a host of unfavourable factors which include ignorance on the part of civil society on the importance of birth registration.
He also cited the large number of babies delivered at home rather than in health facilities and lack of manpower needed to register the births of most children.
Mohammed said lack, of awareness on the importance of birth registration had resulted in lack of planning for children and improper capturing of the most important segment of the society in developmental and social processes that affect them.
He said workable solutions to weak knowledge could begin from the homes and communities and through a wide spread media campaign aimed at creating awareness at all levels of governance and the civil society.
The minister also said “improved partnership with the health care sector can also significantly enhance coverage of birth registration services and the filling of a large human resource gap in NpopC.
He further advocated promoting registration of children when and where they are born and within the first year of their life when parents bring their children for immunisation services.
The minister expressed optimism that the media campaign would drive demand for birth registration services and promote increased knowledge on the importance of birth registration, evidenced by issuance of birth certificates.
“It had become imperative to include a communication component and give a voice to the programme in order to help tackle the low level of awareness and poor knowledge that exists amongst our people towards birth registration.
“This process began last year; communication messages and materials were developed in print and electronic, pretested within identified participant groups in selected communities in the South, East, West and North, to determine their cultural acceptability and brought to camera ready status,” Mohammed said.
He called on journalists to use stories and reports to create massive awareness and enlighten the people on the need for registration and behavioural change as well as intervention.
Integrating birth registration services into health care delivery points must remain an ongoing basic service programme between NPopC and health care delivery actors, he said.
The Child Protection Specialist for UNICEF, Mrs Sharon Oladiji, noted the importance of birth registration certificate in the country, saying some still use Statutory Declaration of Age.
She said ” birth registration is the continuous permanent compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristic of births as provided by decree or regulation accordance in the legal requirements in each country.”
She canvassed that birth registration should be compulsory by law as many falsify their age.
The UNICEF official said the media needed to access the created Rapid SMS innovation system for tracking information on birth registration.
Oladiji said Rapid SMS deployment is designed to help identify the gaps in birth registration data report at the local level and disparities in service delivery.
She said UNICEF was assisting the government and National Population Commission to improve collection, collation, management and providing technical back-end management support.
The Territorial Director of National Population Commission in FCT, Mr Bello Suleiman, said there was need for partnership with agencies on proper training of personnel on birth registration to ensure the credibility of vital statistics.