Italy supports vital events registration in Ethiopia

The Italian Government funds UNICEF with Euro 500,000 to UNICEF to strengthen vital events registration system in Oromia and SNNP regions

ADDIS ABABA, 7 December 2016 – The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation funded UNICEF with a total contribution of €500,000 to strengthen the civil registration system for children’s rights to identify in two regions of Ethiopia: Oromia and SNNPR, in collaboration with the respective regional Vital Events Registration Agencies (VERAs). 

The support is crucial as it represents the preliminary condition towards the creation of a fully functional civil and vital registration system of birth, death, marriage and divorce. The funding aims to improve and standardize the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system and contribute to children’s right to identity to protect them from abuse and exploitation, as well as ensure their access to basic services.

Financial contribution signing ceremony between Italy and UNICEF.

The support comes at a critical time in light of Ethiopia’s creation of a fully functional nationwide civil and vital registration system of birth, death, marriage and divorce in August.

The funding aims to improve and standardize the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system and help protect children from abuse and exploitation, as well as ensure their access to basic services.

In addition, vital events registration is an important pre-requisite for measuring equity, monitoring trends, and evaluating the impact and outcomes of broader development programmes, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the signing ceremony, the Ambassador of Italy to Ethiopia, H.E. Giuseppe Mistretta stated that “the registration of birth represents the first step towards the recognition of an individual within a society, allowing him or her to access to basic services and protect him or her from abuses and violence. Avoiding anonymity and invisibility, birth registration sets the basis for an efficient planning of the governmental policies and strategies of good governance”.

“All our current and upcoming projects of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation in Ethiopia are aligned with the priorities and strategies set by the Government of Ethiopia. This initiative’s  objectives are also expressed by the Proclamation on Vital Events Registration and National ID (Proclamation No. 760/2012), adopted in August 2012. Coherently with the government strategy, the initiative we are signing today aims at improving the institutional and technical capacity of Regional Vital Events Registration Agency (RVERA) in Oromia and SNNPR to effectively lead and coordinate the registration of vital events” said Ms. Ginevra Letizia, Head of the Addis Ababa Office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.  

Ethiopia has one of lowest levels of birth registration in the world at just 7 per cent. With the new system, however, registration of vital events in Ethiopia has been modernized. From regional up to federal and city level administration, UNICEF is supporting standardisation of registration and certification services, which has been officially launched nationwide.

“UNICEF appreciates the timely contribution from the Italian Government to count every child, and in the process, to make every child count. With proof of age and identity, we can protect every child from diverse child protection concerns including abuse, neglect and exploitation, early marriage, child labour and trafficking, and help them to access basic social services, including education and health,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. 

Ensuring every child is accounted for and no one is left behind in Ethiopia

By Hannah Godefa

On August 6th, I was fortunate to be a part of a campaign in Ethiopia when the establishment of the Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) kicked off throughout the country.

VERA is an incredibly important institution for individuals, societies and government. For individuals, registration can be used as legal documents and proof for identification purposes. Information complied from these areas are then needed for admin applications like public health programmes and the electoral roll.

On the first day of the campaign, I visited the Gulele Sub City, Woreda 9 VERA team. UNICEF supports the campaign to ensure all resources needed for registration like registry, certificates, awareness creation, materials and logistics make it to all regions, all the way to the lowest levels of administration.

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia

This process is incredibly important because it will ensure that every child will be accounted from the earliest days of life. This means big advancements for accountability when it comes to harmful traditional practices including child marriage, as every individual will have a marriage certificate with the new system from VERA. It will also make it easier for government, non-profit and civil society partners to identify when these practices are occurring.

Birth registration is the first recognition of a child’s existence by the state. Where births remain unregistered, there is an implication that these children are not recognized as persons before the law. The absence of the system of birth registration results in the violation of children’s rights to name and nationality; to protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including early marriage, child labour  and trafficking; to basic social services, including education and health; and the personal rights of orphans and other vulnerable children.

Currently, birth, death, marriage and divorce will be kept recorded from the kebele civil status office to the federal level, so that there is less room for discrepancies and human rights crime.

Participating in the registration process was an incredibly humbling and powerful experience for me, and I am very excited to see how UNICEF will work with VERA and local partners to ensure that every child is accounted for, and no one is left behind.

Ethiopia: Vital events registration launched

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.

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia
(L-R) Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia , H.E Ms Elsa Tesfaye, Director General of Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), H.E Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and H.E Mr Getachew Ambaye, Attorney General holds a symbolic certificate for birth registration. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

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.”

Inaugural ceremony of National Vital Events Registration in SNNPR capital Hawassa
One-month child Samrawit at a birth registration centre in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) capital Hawassa August 6, 2016. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

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.

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia
(L-R) Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia , H.E Ms Elsa Tesfaye, Director General of Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), H.E Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and H.E Mr Getachew Ambaye, Attorney General holds a symbolic certificate for birth registration.

Birth, death, marriage and divorce registration and certification will cover all regional states and city administrations through interventions that conform to international standards and national legislations 

ADDIS ABABA, 04 August 2016 – Today, the Government of Ethiopia announces a permanent, compulsory and universal registration and certification of vital events such as birth, death, marriage and divorce throughout the country.

H.E Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), launched the inauguration of the event with other senior government officials and development partners including H.E Ms Elsa Tesfaye, Director General of Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), H.E Mr Getachew Ambaye, Attorney General, Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, regional vital registration agencies, vital events registration national council members, development partners, the media and other invited guests. 

At the inaugural ceremony, President of the FDRE, Dr Mulatu Teshome said, “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 endeavour. 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.”

In the past, the absence of a legal framework for a national vital events registration and vital statistics system has resulted in uncoordinated practices of producing civil status evidence. For instance, birth, death and marriage certificates were issued by hospitals, churches and municipalities in an un-systematic and fragmented manner. In response to the situation, the Government of Ethiopia in 2012 adopted a comprehensive law governing the institutional and operational framework of vital events registration. This includes the registration of birth, death, marriage, divorce and complimentary notations of birth such as adoption, acknowledgment and judicial declaration of paternity.

Since the enactment of the federal law on vital events registration, the Government of Ethiopia has made great progress by establishing the Federal Vital Events Registration Agency, including a board of management and a national council. Government’s regional and city administrations also enacted regional vital events registration laws; established regional agencies and a board of management; adopted a costed national strategy; achieved national consensus to integrate vital events registration services into the health system and established administrative structures for managing and delivering registration services. 

Ms Elsa Tesfaye, Director General of Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), said “To realize the multiple benefits of vital registration, all actors involved in the registration process, including the federal, regional, city administrators, key government stakeholders and development partners, should ensure the continuity of the system.” 

Mr Getachew Ambaye, Attorney General stated that, “The conception of modernizing the registration of vital events in Ethiopia has become a reality. From federal up to city level administration, we have finalized the preparation to start registration and certification nationwide. Now, we need to focus on the coordination and the implementation of the service through a systematic coordination to ensure the sustainability of the system.”

Vital events registration is an important pre-requisite for measuring equity, monitoring trends and, evaluating impact and outcomes of broader development programmes, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“UNICEF is very pleased to be supporting the establishment of a fully functional civil and birth registration system in Ethiopia- to count every child, and in the process, to make every child count.  We look forward to the impact of the registration and certification of vital events, such as birth and marriage on the protection and wellbeing of Ethiopian children and the general population,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. 

In addition, vital events registration is essential for compiling statistics that are required to develop policies and implement services. The demographic data generated from such a system is critical for government planning and decision making. This is particularly important in areas such as child mortality, maternal health and gender equality.

Currently, all regional states and city administrations have finalized the preparations and established offices down to the lowest administrative level.‘Kebele’ general managers are acting as civil status registrars and over 94 per cent of ‘kebele’ general managers have received training regarding the fundamentals, rules, and regulations of vital events registration. In addition, the required registry and certificates are printed and distributed.

In order to undertake the registration process smoothly, various actors from government, UN and other stakeholders are playing key roles, but the community has the primary role to play by registering vital events within the prescribed time (birth within 90 days; marriage, divorce and death within 30 days).

Vital events registration will start on Saturday, 06 August 2016, across the country.