BRiE in Nigeria with Norwegian Refugee Council

Context

In July 2009, armed conflict started in Northern Nigeria (mostly affecting Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states) and it continues today. The humanitarian emergency was at its peak between 2011 and 2015, but as of June 2017 this protracted complex conflict had resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 people and the displacement of over 2.1 million, with an estimated 1.9 million internally displaced and over 200,000 refugees in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Thousands of women and girls have been abducted and children drafted as so-called “suicide bombers” into the insurgency.

In Borno state, prior to the emergency, birth registration was undertaken in all Local Government Areas (LGA). Registration rates stood at an estimated 45-50%, with an approximate birth rate of 10,000 births per month. Since the beginning of this protracted conflict, birth registration has reduced to less than 20%, with fewer than 2,000 births registered per month. Most LGAs are no longer accessible and movement in and around Borno state is restricted due to the volatile security situation.

Other humanitarian needs such as access to food, shelter and water sanitation and hygiene and livelihoods are prioritised by conflict-affected people. People who fled to neighbouring countries face many challenges in accessing birth registration services as refugees and there is a general lack of knowledge of the importance of birth registration and the risk of statelessness, also a concern in respect of Nigerian refugees born in neighbouring countries.   

BRiE intervention

Through its information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA) programme, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has been working to improve access to birth registration in Northern Nigeria (Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states). BRiE services could not be provided in some areas under government control such as Gowza, Mafa, Dikwa and Damasak, due to insecurity.

 Activities include:

1.       Raising the awareness of internally displaced people on the value of registering births, obtaining a birth certificate and how to engage in the process (from 2015).

-          ICLA staff conduct group information sessions on birth registration and follow-up with individual counselling services.

-          IEC visibility material is used in the form of t-shirts and pamphlets (in local languages and with pictures) to encourage birth registration.

-          Radio jingles are played on the local radio station in local languages to encourage birth registration.

2.       Birth registration and issuance of birth certificates (2017).

-          Working with the National Population Commission (NPC), the government agency responsible for birth registration, the intervention supports birth registration at NRC project sites.

-          The NPC has trained ICLA staff on how to fill out the documentation required for birth registration.

-          ICLA staff complete the documentation at accessible project sites and the NPC checks the information and issues birth certificates.

-          Boys and girls below the age of 17 years are targeted according to need.

Successes

The BRiE intervention increased the affected population’s understanding of both the relevance of registering births and getting a birth certificate and how to engage in the process. This resulted in an overall increase in birth registration and birth certification rates.

Challenges

1.       Crowd control is a challenge when people gather anticipating assistance. This presents a serious security risk in Northeast Nigeria as suicide bombers target crowded areas. Community leaders and youths can help control crowds and thereby ensure the safety of NRC staff and the people in need of birth registration assistance.

2.       Language barriers can limit effective communication with beneficiaries on birth registration issues. It is important to have local staff who can speak the languages spoken by IDPS, including Hausa and Kanuri. However, recruiting Kanuri-speaking staff was challenging as there are few available to support.

Key Recommendations

1.       A comprehensive needs assessment is essential to understand the needs/gaps and inform programme design.

2.       Engagement with the relevant government departments is essential for a BRiE response. Birth registration is a state responsibility; close collaboration will ensure acceptance of the intervention and a smooth exit.

3.       Awareness raising and sensitization are key to a BRiE response as they alert beneficiaries to the importance of birth registration and also to the procedures for registering a birth and obtaining a birth certificate.

 

BRiE in Uganda

Context

The armed conflict which broke out in South Sudan on 15 December 2013 triggered mass displacement, with hundreds ofthousands of South Sudanese fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety, including Uganda, where almost 1 million South Sudanese refugees are being hosted in settlements in the north of the country. 64% of the South Sudanese refugee population are children (31.1 % girls, 32.8% boys) and 33% identified as adolescents.  Since 2013 birth registration services have been offered sporadically, in limited locations, and in-line with funding availability. No continuous birth registration service is currently available in the refugee settlements of Northern Uganda.

Birth Certificates Issued in Adjumani

Birth Certificates Issued in Adjumani

BRiE Intervention

The BRiE model currently being piloted was developed by completing the BRiE toolkit steps 2 and 3 of the Analyse phase and steps 1, 2 and 3 of Design (all completed within 6 weeks). The following BRiE interventions are included in the model:

Process Improvement

Late registration drives: recognising the fact that a large number of South Sudanese refugee children born in Uganda had not been registered, mass registration was done in 2 settlements and 2 host communities in Adjumani in June 2017.

In the settlements, 1,492 South Sudanese girls and 1,220 South Sudanese boys were registered and issued with birth certificates.

  • Community leaders were mobilised, sensitised on birth registration and its importance, and trained on how to complete the birth registration form.
  • Leaders completed forms in the community (in whichever manner was most effective in their location) and delivered these to Assistant Settlement Commanders.
  • Assistant Settlement Commanders delivered the forms and supporting documentation to a mobile team from the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA)
  • NIRA inputted data from each form into the birth registration system and printed certificates.
  • Certificates were then issued via Settlement Commanders and Community Leaders.

Continuous birth registration services: to ensure that all South Sudanese refugee children born in Uganda are registered immediately, an ongoing process is being tested at health facilities and refugee registration points. The process has Midwives, responsible for completing the child health card after birth, and refugee registration agents, responsible for adding the child to the attestation card, complete the declaration form after they gather similar data for their own purposes. Using existing movement of personnel, these forms are then delivered to the District Registration Office and then the NIRA regional office for processing and printing of birth certificates. These birth certificates will then be redistributed through the same channels, within a 6 week period.

Change Management

  • Local and National civil registration staff were oriented on the structures and workings of the refugee settlements, an unfamiliar structure to them.
  • Local Leaders were trained on the importance of birth registration and a birth certificate – these leaders became “change champions” in the community.

Advocacy

A number of legal and policy items have been identified to improve birth registration rates, including the waiving of fees for a birth certificate for Ugandan nationals.

Communications

  • Information about the process is being disseminated through community leaders, local radio stations, health personnel, religious leaders and community groups e.g. women’s groups.
  • Preconceptions about birth registration and its links with nationality were dispelled and people were informed about the benefits and value of a birth certificate.

The BRiE model is currently being continuously monitored and evaluated, before documenting the approach and associated SoPs for use by NIRA and other partners. Risks (child protection and other) are also being identified on an ongoing basis and mitigation actions implemented.

Successes

  • Awareness of birth registration and its importance, created through communications activities, has created demand for the service amongst parents/caregivers.
  • The analysis activities involved in designing the BRiE intervention has created renewed interest in addressing challenges associated with birth registration within settlements and host communities from both government, UN agencies and Civil Society Organisations.
  • Partner organisations working in other settlements in Northern Uganda have observed the process and would like to replicate it where they work.

Challenges

1. Difference in services for refugees vs. nationals: Birth certificates are free for refugee children born in Uganda but for Ugandan Nationals there is a fee.  These differing requirements has the potential to cause conflict so the project had to ensure that birth registration drives are not conducted simultaneously and sensitisation was conducted around the reasons why the fee structure is different prior to implementation.

2. Change of roles & responsibilities: The different roles and responsibilities within the settlement was not immediately known by all actors involved in the birth registration process, so actors required orientation on how things work in the refugee environment before they could effectively be a part of the process.

3. Inability to share data between actors: Much of the data gathered through other processes that interact with children in the settlement e.g. child health data and refugee registration, includes data required for birth registration. Yet, to date none of the relevant line ministries are able to share data.  This results in parents having to provide the same information into 3 numerous systems on 3 separate occasions, understandably causing confusion around the difference between a birth notification, birth registration, and refugee registration.

4. Requirements for supporting documentation: photocopies of identification documents of parents were required as evidence to complete the birth registration process. Finding an accessible photocopier within the settlements was difficult and required additional effort and coordination to fulfil the requirements. 

Key Recommendations

1. Be aware of the differences in birth registration services between refugee and host communities. Observe differences in process, availability and fees and consider when best to provide these services to each population. In the meantime, refer to the BRiE Advocacy Guide for advocacy guidance on this topic.

2. Identify existing services/registration points that already gather data required for birth registration and explore whether these processes could be used for birth registration. Advocate for the use of existing data sources for the purposes of birth registration and support in the development of safe, secure and ethical data sharing protocols.