Addis Ababa, 9 August 2021 (ECA) - “COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of Africa’s Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems,” said Oliver Chinganya, Director of the African Centre for Statistics (ACS) at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
”Civil registration systems in 47 countries do not have fully functional systems for recording vital statistics and have failed to provide real-time data required as the gold standard for measuring mortality, which is crucial for monitoring level and trends during pandemics.”
Mr Chinganya was speaking on 9 August during a virtual meeting hosted by ECA for CRVS experts from across Africa to take stock of progress and challenges in the sector, especially within the context of the pandemic.
He deplored the fact that COVID-19 has fragilized the systems’ ability to perform core functions of “continuous, permanent, compulsory, universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events pertaining to the population.”
Zambia’s Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Dr. Liya Mutale, stated that the pandemic has “strongly highlighted the critical value of population data and statistics in advancing human development and managing this health crisis.”
She urged leadership across the continent to ensure the resilience of Africa’s CRVS systems, “especially through innovative and decentralised approaches that will remain effective during and post COVID-19.”
The discussions were premised on the commemoration of the 4th Africa CRVS Day, which will take place on 10 August under the theme “Leadership for an Essential Service: Building resilient Civil Registration and Vital Statistics systems in Africa post COVID-19 through innovative, integrated, and decentralized services.”
“The aim of this day is to increase public awareness on the importance of the timely registration of vital events,” said Mr Chinganya.
In the same light, Kenya’s Registrar of Civil Registration Services, Janet Mucheru, underscored the need to raise awareness on the importance of civil registration. She said in addition to innovation and decentralisation, collaboration will be crucial for success in the sector.
“For us to succeed, we need to work very closely with the ministry of health and other core stakeholders to avoid situations where there’s interruption in service delivery.”
In his presentation, William Muhwava who heads ECA’s Demographic and Social Statistics Section, drew participants’ attention to a variety of resources accessible to countries through the ACS, such as the CRVS Improvement Framework, which assists countries to analyse and redesign their systems.
Mr Muhwava cited other resources such as research briefs, leadership profiles, and online knowledge platforms, which allow registrar generals to exchange information as part of the South-South initiative being promoted by ECA.
Dr Azza Badr, a WHO Technical Officer, noted that her organisation was working to strengthen coordination between health sectors, and national and international CRVS stakeholders, and also build capacity to analyse and use mortality and cause-of-death data for policy purposes, among others.
Participants were also introduced to UNICEF’s NoName Campaign, which advocates for universal birth registration in Africa. The presentation was made by Faith Nsanshya who highlighted, among other things, the need to address issues of cost, culture, and other system bottlenecks and barriers to birth registration.
Mr Chinganya used the platform to pay tribute to the CRVS fraternity in Africa, which has “persevered in these circumstances by implementing business continuity plans and adopting innovative ways to ensure the timely registration of vital events.”
The ACS director said despite COVID-19, “we have continued to facilitate information exchange through virtual meetings,” and that ECA in collaboration with CRVS Core Group members have continued to develop methodologies that improve the processes pertaining to CRVS.
He noted, however, that Africa still stands at “almost half the registration rates for births and a third for deaths,” meaning a lot of work needs to be done to attain universal coverage by the end of the SDGs in 2030.
“As leaders, we need to spearhead the transformation of CRVS from slow, passive, and reactive civil registration systems that depend on in-person attendance into systems that are resilient, proactive and agile,” said Mr. Chinganya who also highlighted innovation (digitization), integration and decentralisation as three pillars that will drive CRVS into the future.
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