By Elijah Ugani: Health Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has said that a proper birth register if maintained, can form the foundation for Nigeria’s national database.
“The birth registration program if well maintained, can form the foundation for Nigeria’s national data base which at the moment is distributed among establishments like the Immigration, Federal Road Safety Corps, National Identity Management Commission, the banking industry,” Ayade said Tuesday in Calabar during a stakeholder’s strategic meeting on media campaign for birth registration organised by the National Population Commission (NPC).
He was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Joseph Bassey who explained that: “This is because birth registration generates data from the cradle and provides a child’s background such as parenthood, place of birth, hometown which will go a long way in mitigating security challenges, incidences of age forgery, prosecution of minors and child labor. A complete and accurate vital registration system in the state will be a boost to the population figure of the state in general.”
He continued “Birth registration is the basis upon which population figures are aggregated during the inter-censal years, a complete registration of vital events in the state is fundamental to accurate sectoral planning and allocations. It will also give a true picture of the States’ population growth rate observed over time.
“It is my expectation that this meeting will provide a participatory process for brainstorming, to develop a well thought out state strategic action plan that will guide improvements in birth registration coverage in the state to another level.”
Cross River is estimated to have a population of about four million people. And the State Director of the NPC, Mr. Bassey Eteng noted that: “The first conscious effort to have a universal system of civil registration in Nigeria was in 1979 when the Federal Government in search of an alternative source of demographic data, promulgated the Birth and Death Registration Decree 39 of 1979, with September 1, 1979 as the effective date. However, progress of coverage was slow due to many factors chief of which was political will.
“Significant progress began to be made when in 2010, UNICEF, in line with its child protectionist ideology, began to invest in the program. To further take the program to a higher level, the National Population Commission, in 2013, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Ministry of Health to integrate birth registration into the National healthcare delivery system. A similar MOU was signed with the Federal Ministry of Education. These MOUs were replicated at the state level which was signed with the State Ministries of Health and Education on May 23, 2017 and April 10, 2017 respectively. Consequently, birth registration was integrated into the State Primary Healthcare Development Agency’s (SPHCDA) Maternal New Born Child Health Week (MNCHW), the measles campaign exercise and other programs of the SPHCDA.”
Bassey posited that the programs further yielded good results as they boosted national coverage from a dismal 30 percent in 2013 to its present position of 45 percent.
He further averred that: “The performance of Cross River State in birth registration coverage leaves much to be desired when compared to other States of the federation. The poor performance of the state whose coverage still lingers at 32 percent, is not unconnected with certain peculiar challenges of the state, among which are; difficult terrain and land mass of many local government areas and inadequate manpower (as) there are only 84 registrars in the whole of Cross River State; lack of awareness on the part of the populace resulting in general apathy towards the program and inadequate financing of the exercise.”
He disclosed that the media campaign on birth registration in Cross River State was not part of a nationwide program, UNICEF, in its usual magnanimity, agreed to fund the campaign for the state.
On his part, the Chief of Cross River Field Office, UNICEF, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh who was represented by Mrs. Maureen stated that: “Today’s event is an important milestone in efforts to protect children by fulfilling their rights to identity and legal protection. It is also important because by promoting universal birth registration coverage for children, we create enabling environment for socioeconomic development of the child and his community and the state at large.
“Today’s event is convened to provide a platform for stakeholders to strengthen systems at key sectors (health, education and social welfare) to promote compliance to the statutory requirement of registering children within 60 days of birth.
“As you deliberate, you need to reflect and come up with answers as germane solutions for the following questions; how can Cross River State achieve 100 percent birth registration for all children under 5 years, how can partnership between NPC and health, education, Civil Society Organisations be strengthened to ensure every unregistered child under 5 years is registered with NPC? How can every parent or caregiver know about the importance of birth registration and be encouraged to register their children and wards? How the media mitigate the low awareness on birth registration and disseminate information promoting birth registration on sustained basis?”
Furthermore, Conteh sued for the support of the media on initiatives to promote the culture of registering births with the NPC through sustained awareness creation.
“People need to know its importance, where the can register their children and most importantly that birth registration is free of charge for children 0 – 17 years old. Media through investigative journalism could help to identify and report on the bottlenecks hindering delivery of birth registration services.
“UNICEF will support NPC and the government of Cross River State on the three months campaign to achieve full coverage for all children under 5 years. Registrars will be deployed to families, health facilities, communities and faith based congregations to identify and register children. Everyone is encouraged to visit the RapidSMS website to track real-time progress on birth registration coverage for children across all the LGAs in Cross River at http://rapidsmsnigeria.org/br/,” Conteh said.
The three months campaign will be launched on the 23rd of October, 2018 at the West African People’s Institute WAPI, Calabar.
Reacting on behalf of the media, the Chairman of the Cross State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Mr. Victor Odu pledged the commitment of the media to the campaign and decried the delay in issuing birth certificates in the state.
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