By Nikodimos Alemayehu and Marie Angeline Aquino
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia. August 2016 – Ethiopia launched throughout the country on 4 August 2016 a permanent, compulsory and universal registration and certification of vital events such as birth, death, marriage and divorce.
The inauguration ceremony took place in the presence of the Ethiopian President Dr Mulatu Teshome, UNICEF Representative Gillian Mellsop as well as representatives of other ministries and development partners.
“The Government of Ethiopia has given great emphasis to vital events registration across the country by putting the appropriate policies in place, establishing a system up to the lowest administrative level and deploying massive resources in this endeavor,” said Teshome at the ceremony. “I am confident that, with the collaboration and commitment of all stakeholders, we will succeed in the operationalization of the system, just like we have succeeded in other development sectors in the country.”
Mellsop underscored in her address the importance of the registry in protecting children and combatting child trafficking.
‘’With no proof of age and identity, Ethiopian children become a more attractive ‘commodity’ to a child trafficker, and will not even have the minimal protection that a birth certificate provides against early marriage, child labour, or detention and prosecution of the child as an adult.”
Ethiopia ranks among the lowest in sub-Saharan countries on birth registration with less than 10 per cent of children under the age of 5 with their births registered.
The issue is especially urgent because 48 per cent of the 92 million-strong population is under the age of 18 – 90 per cent of whom are unregistered. The Government has committed itself to reaching at least 50 per cent of children with registration and certification services over the next two years.
UNICEF’s support to Ethiopia’s national civil registration is based on a recognition that birth registration is an important element of ensuring the rights and protection of children.
For children, being registered at birth is key to other rights such as access to basic social services, protection, nationality and later the full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. Moreover, not only is vital events registration essential for compiling statistics that are required to develop policies and implement social services, it is also, as Mellsop points out, “a pre-requisite in measuring equity; for monitoring trends such as child mortality, maternal health and gender equality.”
UNICEF has supported the Government in putting in place a decentralized registration and certification system, which is informed by a legislative framework promulgated in August 2012.
UNICEF is a catalyst in creating this new system with support that includes the reform of the legislative framework, the development of a national strategy and its implementation across the country.
An important element of the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system is its interoperability with the health sector. On this aspect, UNICEF has worked in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health in its efforts to formalize the interoperability, culminating in the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two ministries.
The important of involving the Health Ministry is because it already has its own well organized and decentralized network stretching across the country. This arrangement allows the health facilities found in nearly every community to manage notifications of births and deaths.
The actual registration and certification of all vital events started on 6 August 2016 at the lowest administrative level of the kebele (sub-district).
With Ethiopia’s new conventional vital events registration system in place, there are better opportunities for accelerating vital events registration in Ethiopia, and realizing one of the fundamental rights of children – the right to be registered upon birth.