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 Nigeria.
Mohammed made the call in Lagos at the Media Dialogue on Birth Registration organised by UNICEF.
The minister, represented by Olumide Osanyinpeju, a Deputy Director in the ministry and Head of Advocacy, Child Rights Information Bureau, said birth registration was important, especially for children in rural areas.
Osanyinpeju said: “The need to give identity to every Nigerian child is a task that can only be achieved through birth registration.”
He said birth registration had always been difficult due to a host of unfavourable factors including ignorance on the part of civil society on its importance.
The minister also cited 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 most important segment of the society in developmental and social processes that affect them.
He said workable solutions to weak knowledge could begin from homes and communities and through a wide spread media campaign aimed at creating awareness at all levels of governance and civil society.
The minister also said improved partnership with healthcare sector could significantly enhance coverage of birth registration services and the filling of a large human resource gap in NpopC.
He further advocated promotion of registration of children when and where they were 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.
He said: “It had become imperative to include a communication component and give a voice to the programme.
“This is to help tackle the low level of awareness and poor knowledge that exists amongst our people toward birth registration.
“This process began last year; communication messages and materials were developed in print and electronic, presented within identified participant groups in selected communities in the South, East, West and North.
“This is to determine their cultural acceptability and brought to camera ready status.”
He called on journalists to use stories and reports to create massive awareness and enlighten people on the need for registration and behavioural change as well as intervention.
Mohammmed said: “Integrating birth registration services into healthcare delivery points must remain an ongoing basic service programme between NPopC and healthcare delivery actors.”
Also, Sharon Oladiji, the Child Protection Specialist for UNICEF, stressed the need for importance of birth registration certificate, saying that some still use Statutory Declaration of Age.
Oladiji said: “Birth registration is the continuous permanent compulsory and universal recording of occurrence and characteristic of births as provided by decree or regulation in accordance to the legal requirements of each country.”
She canvassed that birth registration should be compulsory by law as many were falsifying their age.
The UNICEF official said that media needed to access the created Rapid SMS innovation system for tracking information on birth registration.
Oladiji said Rapid SMS deployment was 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.
Commenting, Bello Suleiman, Territorial Director of NPC in FCT, said there was need for partnership with agencies on proper training of personnel on birth registration to ensure the credibility of vital statistics.