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8 February 2015: EU-UNICEF programme accelerates civil registration reform in Africa

Results will be showcased at the Third Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration, Cote D’Ivoire, 9 to 13 February 2015

A two year EU-UNICEF programme has helped accelerate the reform of civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems and increase birth registration rates within eight countries, four of them in Africa.

Results have included a doubling of the birth registration rates in Uganda to an estimated 60%, as well as in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, which had the lowest rates of birth registration in the country. There has been major progress in laying the foundations for a transformative CRVS system in Nigeria, through partnerships and collaboration between different federal government entities, particularly with the health sector, and other institutions.

Meanwhile Mozambique, along with Burkina Faso, has become one of the few developing countries to produce a costed five year operational plan for CRVS which will see the digitization of all CRVS functions by the year 2020 and the formation of a central CRVS database. Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, Head of the EU Delegation to Mozambique comments:

“By supporting a rights-aligned CRVS system in Mozambique, the EU expects to promote an inclusive and strong system of accountability, create interoperability with reliable data to adopt appropriate policies and monitor international goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mozambique could be a leading model for CRVS to be replicated at the level of African Portuguese Speaking Countries and Timor-Leste (PALOP-TL). We can proudly conclude that the project has been a fruitful partnership with UNICEF.”

The country results will feed into the Third Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration (Third Conference), to be held in Cote D’Ivoire, 9 to 13 February 2015. The conference will focus on the relationship between CRVS and good governance in recognition of the significance of CRVS as a tool to facilitate the continent’s development.

Interoperability with the health sector has been a game changer for CRVS. Health Ministers will attend the conference in recognition of the crucial role they play in their ability to unite civil registration and health systems, through for example offering free birth registration in maternity wards and alongside child healthcare delivery such as immunizations. Such initiatives have led to hundreds of thousands of births being registered across the continent.

While the project countries have undertaken different EU-UNICEF activities in CRVS development, they have been set against the common backdrop of the use of new technologies particularly in accessing hard to reach communities, and the need to honour international standards and cross-country information sharing.

Uganda for example piloted the use of mobile technology which in some cases has seen entire villages and hospital settings move from negligible birth registration rates to almost 100 per cent coverage. This technology has been extended to Mozambique Burkina Faso. What unites all these countries is what these reforms mean for children. Every country has specifically targeted hard to reach children and communities with birth registration, where for example education rates can be low and child marriage rates high.

Cornelius Williams, Regional Advisor Child Protection, UNICEF ESARO (Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office) comments:

“The interplay between these issues is a complex one, and birth registration is related to the access to and the denial of human rights in multiple ways. From the obvious, such as the fact a birth certificate is itself a human right – the right to identity - to the more complex, such as the fact the absence of a birth certificate exacerbates the invisibility and vulnerability of victims of human trafficking.”

As the Third Conference will demonstrate, CRVS reform including increased birth registration rates, also has positive impacts at the government level. For example, comprehensive vital statistics on a country’s population are crucial in the formulation of successful policies across multiple sectors – a key requisite for sustainable development, efficient resource allocation, and accurate monitoring and evaluation.

However, while a well-functioning CRVS system lays the foundation for good governance, economic prosperity and the fulfilment of human rights, it remains an untapped resource in many African countries. And of course, therein lies the opportunity.


Breaking with Broken Systems is a European Union (EU) and UNICEF partnership providing assistance to eight targeted countries in Africa and Asia, to reform their civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems. The programme aimed to increase birth registration for children under 5, and has a specific equity focus to reduce disparity rates between urban and rural birth registration.

The two year programme, 2013-2014, ran in Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Myanmar, and in Pacific Island Countries Kiribati, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. The initiative has strengthened in-country CRVS systems, as well as enhancing learning, and models for capacity building in other countries in these regions and beyond.

The project has a life beyond the end of 2014 as it honours wider Government-led continental partnerships on CRVS, in collaboration with on-going international and regional initiatives. As such, all strategic interventions contribute to Government plans and are managed within the context of existing coordination and sustainability mechanisms in targeted countries.

The programme comes at a time when the significance of CRVS as a foundational tool to facilitate good governance, economic prosperity and the fulfilment of human rights, is being recognized both regionally and internationally.

For further information please contact:

Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop, Communications Consultant – Birth Registration
EU-UNICEF Breaking with Broken Systems: Partnership for the Legal Identity of African and Asian Children
elizabeth (at), elizabeth.willmott.harrop (at)
Tel: +44 7786 533639, skype: elizabeth.willmott.harrop



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