The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says the number of children between the ages of zero and 17 years registered in Nigeria increased by 29 million.
UNICEF made this known following a birth registration evaluation report released on Monday.
According to UNICEF, the birth registration programme was implemented by the National Population Commission (NPopC) with support from UNICEF.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mr Mohamed Fall, said the report showed that for children under one year of age, the programme increased by more than 100 per cent the number of children registered; that is, from 3 million in 2012 to 11 million in 2016.
“Low rates of birth registration is a challenge in Nigeria.
“In 2011, the birth registration rate was 41 per cent, which means that three in every five children were not registered.
“This lack of birth registration negatively affects a child’s ability to access his or her right to health care, education and many other rights.
“It is in this context that the programme was initiated to accelerate birth registration rates, particularly for children under the age of five, between 2012 and 2016, ‘’ he said.
Fall said that the programme made significant improvements in strengthening the birth registration system in Nigeria.
According to him, at the level of infrastructure, the numbers of NPopC Registrars/Centres increased to nearly 4,000 in 2016 from about 3,000 in 2012.
“This helped to achieve a harmonised, accessible and efficient birth registration system, which now functions as an integral part of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Nigeria.
“The programme’s use of ICT tools for birth registration introduced target-driven performance in all of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria.
“The LGAs now have specified targets, reports and performance ranking,’’ he said.
The representative said NPopC has been urged as a primary service provider, to take greater ownership and a proactive approach on registration of newborn children and all other children who are still unregistered.
“NPopC is advised to prioritise digitisation, advocacy and lobbying for more funds to effectively implement the Strategic CRVS Plan between 2018 and 2022.
“Birth registration remains pivotal to child wellbeing in Nigeria.
“Overall survey results, as part of the evaluation, indicate that nearly half of the survey respondents perceived that an increase in birth registration can help reduce child rights violations,’’ Fall said.
The Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nigeria, Ms Pernille Ironside, said that birth registration was a critical part of UNICEF’s four pillars of child rights programming including survival, development, protection and participation.
Ironside said that UNICEF had been working with the Federal Government to address systemic bottlenecks that impede birth registration, with a view to achieving sustainable results for children.
“We sought this independent impact evaluation of UNICEF Nigeria’s Birth Registration Programme because we wanted to know what worked and perhaps what didn’t work as well in our efforts to strengthen the birth registration system in Nigeria.
“What we found was that Nigeria’s rapid population growth requires stronger efforts to ensure that birth registration can keep pace with that growth, especially in the under-five population.
“This finding points us in the right direction for our future work on this important issue and our work to deliver results for children and change children’s lives for the better,’’ she said.