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17.02.2007 General News

A Matter of numbers

By myjoyonline

Plan Ghana, a non-governmental organisation, has put forward a proposal that we think is worth considering by the government: that this year, all children under the age of eight years should be registered free of charge as part of the effort to attain the national objective of 100 per cent birth registration.

As we published in our issue of Thursday, February 15, Mr Samuel Paules, Country Director of the NGO made the suggestion when his organisation donated logistics worth over a billion cedis to the Births and Deaths Registry in Accra. The package included motorbikes, computers and other office equipment.

Plan Ghana is a child centred development organisation, championing the welfare of children in the country.

The Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. Stephen Asamoah Boateng was quoted as saying at the function that the major setback towards the development of the vital registration system was the low public knowledge of the importance and benefits of registration to the individual and the nation.

It comes as a surprise that the country's births and deaths numbers or record keeping is still a major problem.

Apparently since the observance of the first National Births and Deaths Registration Day on September 1, 2004, not much progress has been achieved. The first of September was chosen because it was the day the first child was registered in this country in 1912, a girl named Baby Naa.

The government Statistician, Dr Grace Bediako, was reported as saying at the ceremony in 2004 that the country's registration system covered less than 30 per cent of births annually, while that of deaths represents only 23 per cent.

For her part, the Deputy Registrar of Births and Deaths Registry, Ms Agyapong-Ntra, was quoted as saying that observance of the National Births and Deaths Registration Day had become necessary because the majority of Ghanaians did not know about births and deaths registration.

The Minister's remarks and the Plan Ghana suggestion indicate that the dismal registration situation of 2004 remains pretty much the same.

As we have pointed out before in these columns, if births and deaths are not being registered then how reliable are the country's population statistics? How then can it be ascertained that the government even knows the true and accurate population of this country?

It is a scary thought that the country's population figures might be mostly 'guesstimates'! No wonder the amenities and development plans of successive governments are never enough. They are perhaps based on wrong figures!

Our view is that in a country that makes a fetish out of "outdoorings" and funerals it should be easy to come up with creative ways to ensure that people comply with the registration requirements. After all, there are ready-made opportunities to be exploited!

For example, why not rope in all those involved in the huge baby industry to help with educating parents of the need to register the new arrival? We have in mind midwives, traditional birth attendants, churches baptismal officials, shops that stock baby goods, as well as family heads and opinion leaders in communities who most often officiate at the naming ceremonies.

The same suggestion applies to those involved in the funeral industry. They could remind the bereaved of the importance of reporting the death.

In addition to the publicity, the Plan Ghana idea of free registration for all children under eight, would also go a very long way towards achieving record or at least satisfactory birth registration.