The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has recommended Rapid SMS as an innovative system for tracking birth registration in the country.

The Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF-Nigeria, Mrs Sharon Oladiji, suggested this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos on the sideline of a media dialogue on birth registration.

According to her, the Rapid SMS is an information tracking tool that collects data over “SMS’’ or “Text Messages’’ from mobile users.

“Rapid SMS allows data to be collected in real time to enable LGAs, States and Federal Governments as well as partners to collect, analyse and react to data more quickly.

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“Rapid SMS is a supplement to paper forms, it is not a replacement.

“The Rapid SMS online database system was introduced in 2011 as a tool for monitoring birth registration cases.

“This system allows real-time tracking of local and regional birth registration activities in the 774 LGAs across the country,” she said.

Oladiji said the Rapid SMS aimed at facilitating prompt intervention in areas where birth registration coverage is low and to measure how programmatic interventions affect birth registration levels.

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She said the Rapid SMS deployment was designed to help identify the gaps in birth registration data report at the local level and disparities in service delivery.

“Currently only eight per cent of under-5 children are registered in Nigeria; only 44 per cent of Africa’s births are registered, leaving an estimated 85 million children under-5 unregistered.

“Eight of the 10 countries with the lowest levels of birth registration are in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Nigeria having the largest population of unregistered children,” Oladiji said.

She said the use of Rapid SMS to monitor birth registration had challenged an organisational culture of non-accountability.

Oladiji said as a decentralised and real-time monitoring system, Rapid SMS provided constant feedback from the LGA to the state and national level managers, which enabled them to make programmatic changes and assess the results.

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She said monitoring the performance of birth registration services had been significantly strengthened.

“There is the need to use birth registration data from the Rapid SMS dashboard to inform the development of child survival programmes, especially for planning health, education, other social services and delivering age-sensitive interventions.

“The dashboard is helping to improve data acquisition and analysis including registration coverage and not just registration events,” she said.

Oladiji said UNICEF is assisting the federal government through the National Population Commission (NPopC) to improve collection, collation, management and use of birth registration data and providing technical back-end management support.