COVID-19: Civil registration as an ‘essential service’

Addis Ababa, 24 April 2020 (ECA) - African Registrar Generals responsible for civil registration met in a virtual conference organized by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Friday 24 April 2020, to assess the impact of COVID-19 on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) and discuss mitigation strategies.

Noting that civil registration should be considered an essential service during the pandemic, Oliver Chinganya who heads the Africa Centre for Statistics said “ensuring continuity in our CRVS operations, especially with use of information technology is crucial and would be beneficial even after COVID-19.”

With over 30,000 infection cases and a deplorable number of deaths reported in Africa thus far, governments have implemented various strategies to flatten the disease curve, ranging from simple restrictions to a total lockdown of some cities and regions.

Some of the most affected sectors include statistics and data, health, education, food security, including civil registration among others. This has taken a “serious toll on civil registrationsystems, which are expected to be universal, compulsory, continuous, permanent and confidential recording of the occurrence of all vital events,” Mr Chinganya pointed out.

The meeting served as a platform for sharing experiences on mitigation measures employed by different member States. In the case of Uganda, for instance, Ms Judy Obitere stated, “Mobile registration of vital events and health facilities registration services are currently deployed in 52 districts, to ensure notifications are registered.”

She noted, however, that civil registration services have not yet been declared as essential services in her country and that no official registration of vital events services are being provided, especially those that require physical visits to offices. 

The group agreed that it was essential that ECA continues to utilize its convening capacity to bring countries together, gather information and good practice to support governments in planning for business continuity during the pandemic. 

It was noted that ECA is exploring the use of mobile phones to collect data on vital events. Participants also agreed that the health and safety of both the population and civil registration staff are of paramount importance and will take precedence in continuing CRVS operations during COVID-19.

The e-meeting concluded that ECA will produce a report to highlighissues faced by civil registration offices, and mitigation measures put in place by different countries to address the impact of COVID-19 on the operations of Civil Registration Systems.

Recommendations for civil registration authorities to ensure operational continuity during COVID-19 are also available on the website of the UN Legal Identity Agenda Task Force, thanks to contributions and support from the ECA, ESCAP, and The Pacific Community.

Click here for publications, presentations, and updates on ECA’s COVID-19 Response.


Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826