Birth certificate service supports Nigeria’s ‘invisible’ children

Self Help AfricaNews, West Africa

Rose Enya with her child, John.

Until John was two years old, he was invisible to the Nigerian authorities and missing out on access to vital state services, including health care. 
Living in a rural community in Cross River State, south Nigeria, miles from the nearest town, his mum Rose Enya had been unable to register his birth and was unaware of the benefits of doing so.  

But a door-to-door birth registration programme we established in partnership with UNICEF as part of the ‘Child-friendly Community Initiative’, means  John and around 1,900 other children in the area are now officially registered and face a more certain future.  

“I never imagined my child’s birth certificate could be delivered right to my doorstep,” Rose said. “I am now more aware of Government services that my family should enjoy.”  

Obtaining a birth certificate is something many of us take for granted. But there are nearly 166 million children worldwide living without a legal identity. Nearly half of the children in Nigeria aged under five years have not had their birth registered – leaving their rights vulnerable and limiting their access to vital services.  

In Cross River State we have trained community youth volunteers to go door-to-door, supporting local families through the birth registration process – helping them fill out the forms they need, delivering them to the National Population Commission and, around a week later, delivering the birth certificates to the children’s parents. It is part of a comprehensive package of support to women and children facing deprivation and challenges largely because of poverty and inequality.