Registration of births is key to national planning

Recent reports from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that an estimated 19 million children are not captured in the population data of Nigeria after births should compel urgent action from the authorities. A Child Protection Specialist working for UNICEF, Sharon Oladiji, who raised the alarm during a workshop for stakeholders, media and health personnel in Kano, also stated that it is most rampant across the 19 northern states.

According to the report, 10 other countries with unregistered births will increase tremendously by 2050 and also contribute massively to the region’s population. Nigeria’s population is estimated to hit 400 million in the magic year. The report further said that countries like Kenya and Niger Republic would contribute an estimated 50 million and Sudan with 38 million to the growing population of unregistered births. What is responsible for this state of affair and what effect does it pose on Nigeria and its population data? The answer is not farfetched.

One immediate cause of this is ravaging poverty. The challenge is rampant among children of single mothers, teenage mothers and out-of-school and uneducated girls, while parental economic poverty is blamed as another major cause. The report is alarming as it has negative consequences of a weak birth-registration system on Nigeria and other countries concerned. A critical challenge is cultural factor. For instance, in some parts of the country, without the permission of their husbands, some women would not venture out of their homes, no matter how critical the circumstances. Research, however, reveals that most mothers avoid going to the hospital for ante-natal care because they cannot afford the bills. We believe it is the responsibility of government to understand the culture of its people and then adopt strategies for meeting critical challenges.

One known negative effect of poor registration of births is planning blindly. This is because the inability to generate relevant public health data and national estimate is a minus to proper population planning. Not planning with correct population data has a negative effect on Nigeria’s short-term and long-term needs. This is because child-birth registration data would help Nigeria to predict where the country will be in two or five years, as well as listing specific, measurable goals and results.

The plan should also include a specific “to-do” list that keeps everyone informed of the necessary actions and resources, as well as listing who is responsible for all the tasks. Child-birth registration should also include a reasonable time frame for these tasks to be accomplished. Failure to plan will damage the effectiveness of the population data of Nigeria. By determining the population data up front before the actual work takes place, it will allow for the most efficient use of resources.

In place where effective child-birth registration is encouraged and sustained, it will certainly lead to good supervision and better performance of available materials, leading to effective planning for the good of all. In practical terms, where there is a poor child registration, it could result to the children having limited access to social services such as education and health needs.

So to curtail this scourge across the country, there should be some officers specifically assigned to the registration of children immediately after births in all the 774 local governments in the country. And above all, proper enlightenment campaigns must commence immediately.

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