By Hassan Zaggi
Hajara Abdul is a 47-year-old mother of 6 children. She lives in Yankade, a remote village in Keffi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State. Of all her six children, none has a birth registration certificate as she delivered all of them at home.
When asked why she did not make efforts to register them at the nearest Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC), she said: “I don’t understand what you mean by registering my children.
After giving birth, do I need to go to the hospital again to give my child to be registered? All my six children were delivered at home. Most of our women in this community don’t deliver in the hospital.”
When asked if she will allow the children to be registered, she said: “Unless you tell me the importance, if not why should I go back to the hospital or anywhere that my children be registered? Unless the government feels it is necessary then, they can come here and register them.”
Hajara is not alone as there are many rural women across the country who are not aware that it is important for children to be registered.
On her part, 32-year-old Hannatu Bitrus, a mother of 4 who lives in Gani Sarki, a village in Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State, said she has never heard of birth registration.
According to her, “I delivered three of my children at home and one at the hospital but nobody told me anything about registering my children.
Responding to a question on whether she was given a card by the medical personnel when she delivered at the hospital, she said no.
When asked if she want her children to be registered, she said: “If it is important, I will allow them to be registered as far as it will not cost me any money.”
Findings from our correspondents showed that most women in the village do not know what it means to get birth registration card for their children.
Also speaking to our Correspondent, a 28-year-old woman in Lambata, a major town in Gurara Local Government Area of Niger state, Amina Zubair, also said that she has not heard about registration of children after birth.
Amina who is a mother of 3 children said that she delivered her two children at home but the third one was delivered at the hospital, as according to her, she was rushed to the hospital to avoid complication.
After the delivery which she disclosed was through Caesarian Section (CS), nobody told she needed to register the child and she was not given any registration card.
This is the situation of women in most rural areas across the country.
According to 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICs) report, unregistered children whose mothers do not know how to register is 67 per cent while unregistered children whose mothers know how to register is 33 per cent.
The MICS report revealed that 54 per cent of children under the age of 5 had their births registered with civil authorities and have their birth certificates. Three per cent of children under the age of 5 had their births registered, but do not have birth certificates.
The MICS report further showed inequalities in the birth registration. According to the report, in the urban areas 79 per cent of children were registered while only 45 per cent of those in the rural areas were registered. It further showed that among the richest people, 89 per cent of children were registered while 33 per cent were registered among the poorest.
Among those who attended higher/tertiary education, 88 per cent were registered while among those who did not attend high education, only 38 per cent were registered.
This, therefore, clearly showed that poor birth registration is predominantly among the rural, poor and uneducated Nigerians.
To resolve the poor birth registration challenge among the poor and rural dwellers, experts advocate the need to involve both traditional and religious leaders in raising the awareness on the importance of the birth registration in their communities.
According to a Kaduna-based population expert, Yunusa Isa, for the birth registration to improve among the rural dwellers, there is no escaping using traditional and religious leaders to achieve this.
“Most rural women and even men don’t know what it means to register their children. They don’t know its importance to national development, therefore, there is the need for the government to involve leaders at the rural level including the traditional and religious leaders to raise the needed awareness.
“Most traditional and religious leaders are respected by the rural dwellers, therefore, if the government involve them, there will be improvement because they will map out strategies to ensure that any woman that gives birth in their communities, they will make effort to ensure that the child is registered.”
A cursory looked at the MICS report which was recently launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with National Bureau for Statistics and other relevant government ministries and agencies showed that Lagos is the best performing state in terms of under-5 birth registration with 94 per cent while the least performing is Sokoto with 23 per cent.
The MICS report also showed that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is the second performing state with 87.3 per cent; Anambra 86.5; Ebonyi 86.1; Osun 78 while the second least performing state is Jigawa with 23.6 per cent.
On the other hand, the best performing state in the north in terms of birth registration is Adamawa with 79.7, followed by Kwara 74.6 and Katsina 67.9.