Over 1,500 displaced children receive birth certificates in Nigeria
Nigeria scales up birth registration of children at risk of statelessness, living in camps for internally displaced people.
Over the past seven years, Liyatu Ayuba, 50, a traditional birth attendant, has helped deliver over 100 children. In that time, she has seen many of the children grow up in Durumi camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Abuja, without birth certificates.
“I only write the children’s names, date and time that I deliver them for my records. There is no one to issue a birth certificate to them,” said Liyatu.
She added that some of the families of the children in the camp who originally had certificates misplaced them when they were displaced.
Durumi is one of 18 IDP camps in Nigeria’s capital, with over 2,700 displaced people, mostly from northeastern Nigeria. It is one of three camps selected to pilot a birth registration drive run by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, together with the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) and the National Population Commission (NPC).
“There is no one to issue a birth certificate to them.”
The drive is part of efforts to prevent and reduce the risk of statelessness among displaced populations in Nigeria – most of whom have been displaced for over five years – in line with the country’s National Action Plan (NAP) commitment to end statelessness by 2024.
According to the NPC, over seven million babies are born each year in Nigeria and more than 60 per cent of births of children under five remain unregistered, leaving many of them at risk of statelessness.
Globally, one in four children under the age of five are unregistered, leading to about 166 million children under five whose births are never recorded. Without a birth certificate, which provides crucial proof of where a child was born and the identity of the child’s parents, these children lack any proof of entitlement to a nationality and are therefore left at risk of statelessness.
Addressing low birth registration rates, especially in the case of displaced populations, is important so that they are able to prove their entitlement to citizenship and associated rights, such as the right to stay in the country.
The birth registration drive in Abuja occurred in three IDP camps over a three-day period, where more than 1,500 children under the age of 17 were registered and issued with birth certificates. Twenty birth registrars worked daily to achieve this feat.
Temidayo Sunday, the Director of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics at the NPC emphasized the need to urgently address statelessness in the country.
“Birth registration and certification are important not just to the government but to the people,” he said. “The immediate solution is to register children at birth.”
Liyatu added that registration is crucial for accessing a range of services, including jobs.
“There is a boy in the camp who got a job in the local community. He needed his birth certificate and when he couldn’t provide it, he was asked to get an affidavit from the court,” explained Liyatu. “He had to pay N1,500 (about US $4) for the document before he got the job.”
While the process of getting a birth registration and certification document isn’t complex, there are several obstacles, including difficulty in accessing some communities, deliveries in traditional birth homes and lack of awareness on the importance and benefits of a birth certificate, and how to obtain it.
“The immediate solution is to register children at birth.”
As part of its commitment towards preventing and ending statelessness, the Government of Nigeria made several pledges at UNHCR’s 2019 High-Level Segment on Statelessness meeting in Geneva.
Nigeria committed to ‘scale up issuance of birth registration and national identity numbers, including to IDPs, refugees and returnees, and to undertake law reforms on registration of children born on Nigerian territory who would otherwise be stateless and children under ten years of unknown origin.’
- See also: The 1961 Statelessness Convention: 60 years of promoting and protecting the right to a nationality
John McKissick, UNHCR’s Deputy Representative in Nigeria, applauded the initiative, calling it “a great way to commemorate the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.” He expressed hope that Nigeria would soon domesticate the signed treaties.
In 2014, UNHCR, launched the global #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024. Since the start of 2014, 40 States have acceded to the 1961 Convention.
As this year marks the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Convention, Nigeria’s steps towards securing the futures of children who were previously unregistered marks a new dawn for Liyatu’s family and thousands more.
“I am so happy that all the children I helped deliver are officially registered”, said Liyatu. “They now have birth certificates recognized by the government.”
Additional reporting by Solomon Momoh and Umar Yusuf in Abuja, Nigeria