Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 27, 2020 (ECA) – Africa marks its third Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) Day on August 10 with growing calls for nations to classify civil registration as an essential service and strategies to be put into place to ensure business continuity during emergencies, including pandemics.
This year the day will be commemorated in the midst of the crippling coronavirus pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and affected millions across the globe. The pandemic has shown vulnerabilities of civil registration systems when services were required the most.
The fourth Conference of Ministers held in December 2017 in Nouakchott, Mauritania, declared August 10 as the African Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Day and advised member States to observe the day to reaffirm their commitment to putting in place effective registration systems.
“It is imperative for us to examine the role that civil registration and vital statistics can play in providing real-time information for the monitoring and mitigating the impact of such emergencies as COVID-19,” says Oliver Chinganya, Director of the Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) African Center for Statistics.
In an interview ahead of the commemoration which will be under the theme; Civil Registration and Vital Statistics: An Essential Service for Monitoring and Mitigating the Impact of Emergencies, Mr. Chinganya said Africa’s vision for “Everyone visible in Africa” remains crucial even in times of the pandemic hence the need to ensure uninterrupted service to clients.
The United Nations Legal Identity Agenda Task Force (2020) recommends that countries should have a “business continuity plan” on registration of vital events during disruptions such as pandemics, public health emergencies and disasters.
This plan should elaborate the requirements of minimum essential services during the special circumstances, including how to protect the workforce with civil registration offices preparing contingency plans to meet post-pandemic demand for registration services.
The UN is also recommending that nations establish disaster resilient civil registration systems that can continue to function under precarious circumstances.
During the crisis, the CR system should be able to adapt and make temporary changes to registration processes, for example, through revision of existing standard operating procedures, business processes or rules to expand eligibility regarding who can notify civil registrars of births and deaths and to establish special processes/waivers for persons who may not have the documents that are required for registration, particularly considering those who are stateless.
“CR offices should also prepare and plan for handling the expected backlog in birth and marriage registration in the aftermath of COVID-19,” said Mr. Chinganya.
The vital statistics function needs to be maintained to enable production of timely, accurate and disaggregated small area data for administrative and statistical use, he added.
Given the nature of pandemics, epidemics and other emergencies, there is need to accurately target interventions.
Automated methods of data collection that reduce face-face interactions should be used, the UN recommends.
Digital technology, with extensive use of devices such as mobile phones and tablets, has incomparable opportunity for driving the agenda for Africa Programme on Accelerated Improvement of CRVS systems (APAI_CRVS) and Legal Identity for All on the continent.
Partnerships with the health sector, particularly linking civil registration to maternal and child health services, are being encouraged to provide continuity of registration of births during the emergency.
COVID-19 has been disruptive as access to civil registration was being hindered as a result of social distancing, restricted movement, and general apathy by the populace to go to registration centres and closure of local government services.
There have been heightened expectations of national statistical systems to provide data needed to manage the crisis, including its socio-economic effects. Data on new cases and deaths has been crucial to show trends and impact of the pandemic.
Civil registration is defined by UN standards as the universal, compulsory, continuous, permanent and confidential recording of the occurrence of all vital events. It is an invaluable source for comprehensive, regular and detailed vital statistics.
Functioning civil registration systems provide people with legal identity documents, starting with a birth certificate that prove their legal status and help to safeguard their rights throughout their lives.
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