Akwa Ibom State Vulnerable Children: A Chance for a Brighter Future
Birth registration is an essential national requirement for identification of any individual in a civil society. Many children orphaned by AIDS in Akwa Ibom state had suffered the double jeopardy of not been numbered and counted among the citizens of the land thereby disenfranchising them from their basic rights and benefits. The USAID funded SIDHAS project through a community based organization (CBO) – AIDs Care Managers, conducted an assessment for vulnerable children (VC) using the National child status index and vulnerability index tool. Eight (8) communities (Equita, Eyo Abasi, Offi, Ube, Ediene abak, Ukpom abak, Mbierebe and Atanoffot) were assessed with about 3,000 children identified to be without formal registration and therefore no birth certificates. These findings were worrisome considering the huge numbers of children without formal identification. Most births in these communities are done at the homes of traditional birth attendants and other non-health facilities such as homes and churches.
The SIDHAS project implementation team working with AIDS Care Managers and Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare in the State armed with this evidence, embarked on a series of advocacy initiatives to the National Population Commission (NPC) and sensitization to community leaders and caregivers. The targeted engagement with the relevant agencies and stakeholders created the necessary awareness on the need for urgent action on the registration of the births of all VCs in the identified communities.
By the end of June 2014, the NPC, working with community volunteers and CBO staff, mobilized the community to a mass registration exercise. Two thousand, five hundred and thirty seven (2,537) (Male: 1,304: Female: 1,233) vulnerable children were registered across 8 communities earlier identified during the assessment. The community leaders, caregivers and children remain appreciative for this support by the USAID funded SIDHAS project. The vulnerable children of the 8 communities concerned can now look forward to a brighter future.