Right from the start

Homebirth registrations: a second opportunity for children’s legal identity

By Araia T. Alvarez
Right from the start
UNICEF Niger/Araia T. Alvarez

08 October 2019
Link to video on it's hosted site.
UNICEF Niger/Araia T. Alvarez

“My job is about making sure that children get their birth certificates. When children lack a birth certificate, they can’t carry on in school, they can’t be protected from child labor, child trafficking, or child marriage.  Without it, children are currently invisible in their own country” says Modou Miko, a civil registrar at the EU-UNICEF-funded PAREC programme (Support Program to Niger’s Civil Registration System Reform).

Modou Miko, is a civil registrar equipped with PAREC materials for birth registration.
UNICEF Niger/Araia T. Alvarez
Modou Miko, is a civil registrar equipped with PAREC materials for birth registration.

Field actors such as Modou are properly equipped to reach all the children and facilitate the obtention of birth certificates in record time. During a new birth registration process, he talks about the day to day at work in the village of Sarkin Yamma, in the Maradi region.

Modou Miko bringing birth certificates to parents in a village in the Maradi region.
UNICEF Niger/Araia T. Alvarez

“When there is a new birth in the village I go straight away to the parents’ house to fill out the birth declaration. Then I bring it to the chief of the village for his signature. The concerned civil authorities come to pick up the birth declarations on a motorbike. In the case there is a medical centre in the village they go there for collecting the declarations. Finally, the municipality signs and stamps them to provide the official birth certificates to the hands of the parents” affirms Modou.

Community challenges for birth registration

Moussa Saley is the Regional Director at the birth registration office in Maradi region and has more than 10 years of experience in the sector. He explains the challenges and achievements during the birth registration process in one of Niger’s most populated regions, where around 90.000 births are registered each year.

Modou Miko, Moussa Saley and the chief of the village of Sarkin Yamma
UNICEF Niger/Araia T. Alvarez
Modou Miko, Moussa Saley and the chief of the village of Sarkin Yamma

“The birth registration sector is considerably large in Niger. Our country has the highest fertility rate in the world with more than seven children per woman. The biggest challenges in the process are the resistance and the cultural barriers within the families. However, due to the sensitization efforts, populations are now conscious of the importance of the birth certificate to protect their children and also to contributing to the well-being of the community”.

“The main cultural barrier we faced is the fact that a lot of women prefer to deliver without seeking care during childbirth. This prevented a lot of children from being registered right after they were born in health facilities. When a child is not registered 30 days after being born in the rural environment and 10 in the urban, it is necessary to do it through the justice system resulting in a much longer and expensive process which might be inaccessible for many families,” explains Saley.

Every child should have a birth certificate.

The European Union and UNICEF join forces to support the Government of Niger in the implementation of the PAREC program with the aim that every birth is declared, and every child is provided with a free of charge birth certificate.

The EU-UNICEF’s strategic actions are geared towards strengthening the civil registration system, including legal and policy reforms, services strengthening, community-based registration and social mobilization campaigns. Innovative approaches – through new technology – will be also used to strengthen monitoring and information systems soon.

A mother just received the birth certificate of her child in the Maradi region.
UNICEF Niger/Araia T. Alvarez
A mother just received the birth certificate of her child in the Maradi region.

More than half of the 900,000 births expected each year were registered within the legislated timeframe thanks to the 12,000 reporting centers run by agents trained in registration techniques and the provision of registration books across the regions. Public awareness campaigns targeted approximately 2 million people who were sensitized in birth registration in 9,000 villages out of the existing 15,000.

“There is still a lot of work to do, but I am satisfied with the progress we’ve made. Today it is the population itself that shows their interest in support the awareness campaigns” says Saley.

The Government has recently revised the policy and law concerning the civil registration system, by adopting the revised National Civil Registration Policy in April, the Civil Registration Law in July and its implementation decree in August.

“We hail these policy and legal reforms as a major milestone towards universal birth registration, the realization of the rights of every child in Niger, and their ability to access opportunities as adults,” says Ilaria Carnevali, UNICEF Deputy representative.