Field officers registering under-five children in Papa Ward during the house-to-house birth registration exercise in Bauchi...recently

The recent house-to-house registration exercise carried out by the Bauchi State Government through the National Population Commission and the United Nations Children’s Education Fund was hitch-free, writes Segun Awofadeji

A name and nationality is every child’s right, enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international treaties. In spite of these treaties and efforts by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the world, the births of nearly one fourth of children under the age of five worldwide have never been recorded. And this lack of formal recognition by the state usually means that a child is unable to obtain a birth certificate. As a result, he or she may be denied healthcare or education. Registering children at birth is the first step in securing their recognition before the law, safeguarding their rights, and ensuring that any violation of these rights does not go unnoticed.

Taking into cognisance the failure of governments to prioritise registration of children at birth, as well as the UNICEF survey which shows Bauchi State as among states in the North-east that had the highest number of children not registered at birth (an estimated 600,000 children were unregistered at birth), Bauchi State Government, through the National Population Commission (NPC), and in collaboration with UNICEF, recently embarked on massive house-to-house registration campaign exercise between 6th to 16th July across the 20 local government areas of the state, to improve birth registration coverage.

With funding support provided by the European Union (EU) integrating birth registration with the healthcare delivery system is the practical approach in which UNICEF, the NPC, the state Ministry of Health and the State Primary Health Care Development Agency (BPHCDA) are collaborating to ensure increased birth registration coverage is attained and sustained in the state.

Flagging off the ceremony, Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar, assured that all primary healthcare facilities and government hospitals in the state will have a desk officer dedicated to registration of birth.

He also added that all relevant state government agencies and departments are to key into the initiative of UNICEF Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) project to ensure that henceforth all births in the state are registered and appropriate certificate issued.

He therefore called on all parents, caregivers, traditional and religious leaders, as well as opinion leaders to cooperate with the registrars that will go from house-to-house in the next 10 days to register all children under five years.‎

Speaking in a welcome address at the flag off ceremony, the NPC Federal Commissioner, Alhaji Hassan Bashir, said that the essence of the campaign was to address the low level of birth registration of children between zero to five years in the state. ‎

“The figure is least in the North-east region standing at about 25 per cent of expected number. Such intervention has taken place in two other states (Adamawa and Kebbi States) and since then, the level of registration in those states have really boosted to about 70 per cent.

He said that the exercise will also help in providing an accurate data for ‎proper policies planning by the state and federal governments in the areas of health, education and provision of social amenities.
The NPC federal commissioner therefore commended Bauchi State Government for providing office accommodation for the commission to carry out the exercise.

In his address, the Head of UNICEF Bauchi Field Office, Abdulai Kai-Kai, said that the exercise, which is being funded by the European Union, is a collaborative effort involving UNICEF, the National Population Commission, the Bauchi State Ministry of Health and the Primary Health Care Development Agency.

He added that the exercise is a practical approach to ensure increase in birth registration coverage in the state.
“As of January 2014, about 1,292 health workers in various health facilities across Bauchi State have been trained on birth registration process so that they can support conduct of birth registration efforts in the various health facilities in the state.

“However, in spite of‎ the support garnered so far and foundation strengthening efforts, the National Population Commission in Bauchi State needs a lot of intensive effort to register thousands of children being missed, both at the health facilities and in marginalised, hard-to-reach rural and very rural communities,” he said.
THISDAY checks revealed that as part of efforts to ensure a successful birth registration exercise in the state, in January 2014 to be precise, about 1,292 health workers in various health facilities across the state were trained on birth registration process so that they can support conduct of birth registration efforts in the various health facilities in the state.

Other integration efforts included the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NPC and the state’s Universal Basic Education Board (BSUBEB) on June 20, 2016 to build partnership for integrating birth registration services into educational service delivery in the state.

There was also integration of birth registration services into Nutrition/CMAM programmes and that of the WASHCOMS in focus local government areas, with several meetings and engagements had with health actors and traditional institutions just as birth registration services were also consistently provided during the MNCH weeks/rounds in the state.
Shortly after the flag off of the exercise, about 10 journalists were dispatched to the 20 local government areas that make up the state to give effective coverage and assessment to the house-to-house birth registration of under-five children, and the exercise was not only successful but rewarding.

THISDAY monitored the exercise in Darazo and Bogoro Local Government Areas. It observed that the under-five registration campaign recorded tremendous acceptability and success.
In Darazo for instance, the Acting Chairman, Darazo Local Government Council in Bauchi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Umar, described the exercise “smooth and hitch-free,” and attributed its success to the awareness creation embarked upon prior to its commencement.
“The awareness campaign embarked upon preparatory to the commencement of the registration exercise has significantly contributed to its smooth and successful conduct in Darazo Local Government Area of the state,” he explained.
The chairman also described the exercise in the state as a veritable tool that will enable the government plan for children as well as implement basic social services for the future well-being of the children in the state.
While expressing optimism that the exercise will achieve over 75 per cent success in the local government area, the council boss however advocated for strict adherence to routine, continuous registration of all newborn and all children below 18 years in the state.

In an exclusive interview with THISDAY, Umar appealed to parents and guardians in the area to seize the opportunity of the registration exercise and ensure all unregistered under-five children are registered for them to obtain their birth certificate from the NPC.

According to the council boss, “with the positive response of parents and other stakeholders in local government, I can assure you that we will record over 75 per cent success in this exercise and will definitely exceed the 35,000 target slated to be achieved by God’s grace.”

Also speaking, the birth registration monitor in the local government area, Rufai Adeniyi Adedeji, who told THISDAY that he has been able to go round the 17 wards in the LGA noted that the “turnout is very encouraging and we hope that it will continue to the end of the exercise.”

According to him, “there’s been a lot of progress in the centres as we were able to surmount the initial challenges we encountered on the first day of the exercise. We are happy with the support we are getting from the parents, traditional rulers and other stakeholders.”

The comptroller of NPC in-charge of the council, Alhaji Ahmed Haruna Mohammed, while conducting THISDAY round some of the registration centres in Darazo, Konkyel and Gabare towns, explained that the awareness campaign embarked upon preparatory to the commencement of the registration exercise has significantly contributed to its smooth conduct in the area.

“We are reaching out to all those children who have missed registration at birth either at the health facilities or staying in rural communities where birth registration did not take place because we want them to have identity as Nigerians,” he further explained.

THISDAY also monitored the exercise in Bar, Bogoro, Mwari, Boi, Gambar, Lusa and Badagari communities, among others, in Bogoro Local Government Area. It observed that the exercise was hitch-free as households in the local government gave maximum cooperation to the field workers.

The Comptroller in-charge of Bogoro Local Government Area, Mr. Paul Daniel, who monitored the exercise alongside THISDAY, addressed a gathering of parents in Mwari ward who brought their under-five aged children for birth registration, highlighted the various advantages derivable from the birth registration exercise emphasising that a name and nationality is every child’s right.

He stressed that registering a child’s birth is a vital first step towards establishing an official identity and nationality for the child, adding that without birth registration, children are shut out of society activities as they are exposed to exploitation, violence and abuse.

Daniel, who expressed optimism that the exercise will achieve 70 per cent success, however attributed the success of the exercise to the high response the parents of children.

Some of the field workers who spoke to THISDAY said that the turn-out was very encouraging and the exercise was going on smoothly because of the massive sensitisation campaigns earlier embarked upon by UNICEF, NPC, traditional and religious leaders, among other stakeholders in the area.

Like the other registrars at the exercise, Timothy K. Aliyu and Esther Simon who said though the exercise was hectic, noted that “the awareness campaign embarked upon preparatory to the commencement of the registration exercise has significantly contributed to its smooth conduct in our local government area and this is encouraging.”
Also, a traditional ruler in Gabate, Alhaji Yakubu Waziri Gabare, Maiangwa Beriberi in Gabare, who could not hide his excitement over the exercise, warned parents and guardians in the area not to deprive a child from being registered. He told his subjects that the exercise would assist the government in planning for the socio economic welfare and education of the children’s future.

Also, women who came out in their hundreds to register their children could not hide their joy over UNICEF and NPC house-to-house birth registration exercise saying it had assisted in defining the future of their children.
Those of them who spoke to THISDAY are optimistic that the initiative would help shape the lives of their children saying that “We are very happy because with this initiative by UNICEF and NPC our children will now have a valid national identity which will help them in their future endeavours as we have been told by our ward head and mallam.”

The Bauchi State Director of the NPC, Alhaji Musa Haruna, had in a Bauchi Radio Corporation (BRC) live radio phone-in programme, monitored by THISDAY, said 3,000 ad-hoc staff were trained from across the 20 local government areas of the state to conduct the exercise.

According to him, the exercise jointly supervised by the commission, the European Union and UNICEF will ensure that all registered children will instantly be issued with certificates by the registration officials.

The director explained that the purpose of the registration exercise was to provide statistical data of children under the age of five in the state for development objective of the state.

THISDAY checks revealed that before the official kick off of the exercise, all traditional rulers including Emirs and village heads, religious and community leaders in the 20 local government areas of the state as well as other relevant stakeholders had met at different fora and agreed to sensitise their people on the importance of birth registration.