Vital Statistics : Ignorance, A Major Hurdle To Birth Registration
The United Nations Children’s Fund over the weekend organised a seminar for journalists.
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, MICS 2014 report, shows that birth registration in Cameroon stood at 66.1 per cent, while the situation per region was as follows: Adamawa 69.8 per cent; Centre 81 per cent; Littoral 84.6 per cent; East 58.2 per cent; Far North 82.1 per cent; North 60.9 per cent; North West 77.1 per cent; West 83.1 per cent; South 62.6 per cent, and the South West, 55.6 per cent. Yaounde had 87.6 per cent and Douala 91.4 per cent.
It was against this backdrop that the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and the Network of Journalists for the Protection of Children’s and Vulnerable People’s Rights, REJODEC, held a seminar in Mbalmayo on the outskirts of Yaounde from March 1-2, 2019. The 30 participants also discussed UNICEF’s other priority areas such as malnutrition and vaccination.
From discussions, it was evident that many Cameroonians still do not understand that every child is entitled to a birth certificate. On the other hand, illiterate parents do not generally see the need to get their babies registered, while many civic status registration centres are not functional; and where they do, officers still have to be sworn in to make the birth certificates they issue have force of law. Similarly, many people still do not understand the processes of getting birth certificates, especially after the 90-day legal timeframe.
Nevertheless, efforts have been made over the years by government, UNICEF and other partners to boost birth registration. These include the creation of the National Civil Status Office, BUNEC; issue of almost 35,000 birth certificates to returning refugee children in the Far North Region, and the setting up of the Children’s Parliament. Children’s MPs have subsequently been empowered to raise awareness on birth registration.
In 2016, BUNEC organised mobile film projections to raise awareness on birth registration, while a birth digitalization project initiated by the European Union and UNICEF has since been taken over by BUNEC.