Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 21st August 2018: As Ethiopia enters the third year of rolling out a comprehensive civil and vital events registration system, which includes birth registration, the government and its partners gathered on 18th August to commemorate the first ever civil registration and vital statics day.
Beyond the usual fanfare that accompanies these events, the day was an opportune moment to reflect on the progress the country has made since the comprehensive vital events registration system was launched in 2016.
In his opening remarks, the President of Ethiopia Dr. Mulatu Teshome said the vital events registration system was important as it enabled citizens to demand their constitutional rights and obtain comprehensive social and economic services. It also enabled the government to design laws, policies and strategies with concrete evidence and ensure their enforcement.
Commemorated under the theme universal, permanent and continuous civil registration and vital statistics system for good governance and better lives, the event was held to raise public awareness about the importance of registering vital life events such as births, marriages, and deaths.
“As we embark on the third year, we can see that more than 18 per cent of children under one year of age are now registered with civil authorities, up from only 3 per cent in 2016,” said UNICEF Acting Representative Shalini Bahuguna.
Ethiopia did not have a comprehensive vital events and civil registration system before 2016, as a result of which only three per cent of children under the age of five had their births registered with civil authorities and two in three of these children had a birth certificate. However, following the enactment of the Council of Ministers regulation to establish the Federal Vital Events Registration Agency (FVERA) and the national identity proclamation in 2012, a system for coordinating and supporting the registration of vital events registration was launched in July 2016.
Since then, 19,351 registration offices have been established across the country out of which 17,042 are providing vital events registration and certification services. Within this period, 965,457 births, 208,637 marriages, 8,089 divorces, 178,559 deaths, and 565 adoptions have been registered.
Key supporters of this programme who have channelled their support through UNICEF include the European Union via the Netherlands embassy (€4m) and Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (€1.5m). Other partners providing their support directly to FVERA include the World Bank (USD 15 million), UNHCR (computers, printers and laptops), Economic Commission for Africa and Plan International (technical support and capacity building), World Vision (media advocacy) and UNFPA and WHO (costing of the strategic plan).
Birth registration rates can be accelerated if bottlenecks such as the requirement that both mother and father should be present at the time the birth certificate is being issued are removed and if the first copy of the certificate is issued without a fee. Despite Ethiopia’s progress in expanding the system to cover 88 per cent of the country and improving rates of registration, most of the population, particularly in socially and economically disadvantaged areas, have neither heard about vital events registration nor understood its relevance. Thus, creating more awareness about the system and generating demand for its services remains a key focus of the programme.