From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The United Children’s Fund UNICEF has called for attitudinal change in the registration of children under the age of five in Benue State stressing that as it stands now, birth registration of under-5 children in the state is very poor.
UNICEF’s Chief of Enugu Field Office, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh made this known at a one-day stakeholders’ Engagement with Religious, Traditional and Community leaders from Katsina-Ala, Ukum, Logo, Kwande and Vandeikya Government Areas of the state held at NKST Central Church Katsina-Ala on Thursday.
Represented by UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist, Enugu Field Office, Mr. Victor Atuchukwu, Conteh said according to 2018 survey, out of every 100 children born in Benue under the age of 5, only 39% has been registered and out of the 39%, only 22% is registered with NPC. A further breakdown of the statistical data presented by Dr Conteh indicated that in Vandeikya Local Government, only 9% of U-5 children has been registered, Katsina-Ala,16%, Vandeikya 9%, Logo 23% and Ukum 36%.
Although he lamented lack of NPC manpower to do child registration and called on the NPC to employ more staff, Conteh urged the few available personnel not to relent in their efforts given the importance of birth registration. He also advised that women should be involved in the sensitization exercise as they are always available at the time of birth registration.
The UNICEF’s Chief of Enugu Field differentiated between birth certificate and delivery note issued by a hospital, saying a certificate of birth must bear Federal Republic of Nigeria just like National, Identity Card, Driver’s license, voter’s card and other means of identification.
He stressed that birth registration helps checkmate child trafficking and attracts social amenities to communities hence UNICEF’s target for everybody to be sensitized on the need to register their children.
Earier In a welcome address, Federal Commissioner of the NPC, Barr Patricia Kupchi represented by State Director of the Commission, Mr Stephen Tsemende, said the NPC is charged with so many responsibilities including the registration of children in addition to population.
“National Population Commission deals with population of people, their numbers and characteristics. The issue of birth registration is a continuous exercise and it is important to the NPC, the Communities and the whole nation”, he elaborated.
In a good will message, Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Dr Joseph Gbea represented by Director of Public Health, Dr. Terna Kur said the Ministry of Health makes use of population to plan for health services hence their collaboration with UNICEF and NPC to support birth registration. He said already, they have been collaborating with UNICEF and NPC in many areas of healthcare delivery adding that the link is obvious.
Speaking on the issues of birth registration, NPC Head of Technical Department, Mr Chris Nege emphasized that people have to register both birth and death including stillbirth, adding that children born out of wedlock too have to be registered but on one condition that the mother must identify the father of the child before birth registration certificate will be issued.
Enumerating the importance of birth registration, Mr Nege said it gives the child legal right to be enrolled into schools and to open bank account. Other benefits according to him include right to marriage, Baptism, to vote and be voted for. He cautioned that there is time limit for birth registration which is 7 days but it depends on cultural background.
Stakeholders and representatives of various groups expressed readiness to cooperate with UNICEF by taking the message to their communities.
Kindred head of Katsina-Ala Central, Zaki Ayamke Ignatius and kindred head of Mbaifu in Logo Local Government, Chief Jacob Gbamga appreciated UNICEF for creating the forum and promised to enlighten their subjects to embrace birth registration.
On their part, James Ahugh of NKST Jato-Aka, Ubor Polycarp of All Saints Parish Tsenge Ugbah, Logo Local Government, Ahobee Simeon of NKST Ahobee from Ukum Local Government and Tsegba James of St Robert Rectory, Gbem, Vandeikya Local Government said they would go back and inform their Church leaders to preach the message to their church members
Also commenting, Kumbur Felix Terna of NKST Ikyowase and Sir Shinyi Sesugh of National Evangelical Mission Zaki-Biam, Ukum Local Government assured that they would convince their people to go to their churches to register their children in order to attract health services.
In a vote of thanks, NPC State Controller, Mr Ben Imande, encouraged participants not to slack in their efforts to achieve the desired result. He appreciated Religious, traditional and community leaders for their cooperation.