The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the National Population Commission (NPopC) have stressed the need for parents to ensure birth registration for their children, saying it is the only means of saving their lives.
They said this in an interview with NIGERIA NEWS at the sideline of a two-day Media Dialogue recently held in Kano.
The meeting was convened by UNICEF with support from the Child Rights Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
Mr Geoffrey Njoku, Communication Specialist, UNICEF, said obtaining the birth certificate would enable a person to get the best medical attention when in need.
Njoku cited an instance of a man who was to undergo a surgical session but because he gave a wrong age, it became very difficult to attend to him.
According to him, the birth certificate had gone a long way in saving the lives of people through proper medical attention.
“An in-law of mine who is a surgeon had this patient he was to book for surgery and so the doctor did not have an idea of how old the patient is.
“ The patient said he was 55 years but my in-law felt he was older. So, while putting him on the table for the surgery, he compelled the man to tell him his real age so as to know the drug to administer on him.
“The patient later said he was 67 years old which means a clear 12 years was cut off from his real age, but the 55 was his official age.
“ What we are now saying is that if we have birth registration, the certificate will just immediately tell you that this is the person’s age and you know the drug to administer on him.
Njoku added that in the medical profession, the administration of drug on a patient would have to go with age and weight, hence birth certificate was critical to saving the lives of Nigerians.
On the correlation between birth certificate and schooling, Njoku noted that the education sector must be a stakeholder in ensuring the registration of birth for new pupils to be enrolled.
He said this would provide a benchmark for the age limit of students gaining admission into higher institutions, as presently many underage children were gaining admission to the universities.
He, therefore, called on the government to enforce the law of birth registration to allow for planning.
Similarly, Mrs Adaku Obodo, Chief Vital Registration Officer, National Population Commission (NPopC), said birth registration was the only means of identity for Nigerians.
According to her, if a child is not registered, legally he did not exist; which means the registration is the only way of identifying a person.
She said in a country where the number of children was not known, those children did not have a future because they were not planned for.
She also said that a child could also be maltreated, trafficked or enslaved if such a child did not have evidence of birth.
“What we intend to achieve is that we don’t want any child to be left out, we are interested in the future of the children.
“Education is another sector where if we don’t catch them when they are born at the hospital, we also catch them when they are being enrolled in school.
“ When we collaborate with the school authority, we will be able to identify those children without birth certificate and we can register them and issue them one.’’
Obodo said the NPoPC was already collaborating with some State Governments such as Abia and Bauchi through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure the success of the enrolment drive in schools.
She said that head teachers were also trained to assist in identifying children without birth certificates and as such get information about them so that they could issue them the documents.
She, therefore, called for sensitisation by the media and other stakeholders in order to get the benefits of birth registration in the country.
“Birth registration is key to existence, key to every developmental factor you can think for a child, be it education, access to health care or being treated well.
“It is the child’s right to a nationality and being recognised, but sensitisation is key to achieving this.
NAN reports that the 2013 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) revealed that only 30 per cent of Nigerian children have so far been registered in Nigeria.
This means that of the 7 million estimated birth annually, only about 1.4 out of this are registered.