(Freetown, Tuesday 10th August, 2021).
The 10th August of every year is celebrated as Africa Civil Registration and Vital Statistics day. This day is normally celebrated across the continent of Africa with the aim of increasing public awareness on the importance of the timely registration of vital events, particularly births and deaths, through a coordinated and well-functioning civil registration, vital statistics and Identity Management system (IDMS) as in the case of Sierra Leone. Every year CRVS Day is celebrated with a theme which serves as an advisory note guiding the sense of purpose for the celebration of that year. The theme for this year’s celebration is: ‘’Leadership for an essential service: Building resilient civil registration and vital statistics systems in Africa that provide innovative, integrated and decentralized services for the post-COVID-19 period’’. This theme was localised as Leadership for essential service: Promoting birth registration and building resilient systems that provide innovative, integrated and decentralized CRVS in Sierra Leone.
This year’s CRVS Day commemoration was done in a different way amidst strict COVID-19 measures as advised by the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre (NaCOVERC), a body responsible for managing the response of the pandemic in the country. The National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) with support from the Government of Sierra Leone collaborated with its Development Partners to join other African States in Commemoration of this day. Celebration activities were carried out across the 16 administrative districts including the regional headquarter towns of Freetown, Makeni, Bo and Kenema respectively.
Celebrations at the regional headquarter towns were done in the form of town hall meetings, radio talk shows and television discussion programmes. Participants were drawn from across public sector institutions such as the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Ministry of Transport and Aviation, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs, National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Correctional Services Department, National Revenue Authority (NRA), Statistics Sierra Leone, the Judiciary of Sierra Leone and the Immigrations Department etc. The Inter-Religious Council, Children’s Commission, Civil Society Organisations and the Media were also present. Other important interest groups such as Market women association, Sierra Leone Armed Forces Wives and the Sierra Leone Police Force Wives Associations were also in attendance.
Discussions at the town hall meeting in Freetown the capital of Sierra Leone was preceded by a detailed power point presentation done by the Director of Births and Deaths – Mr. Brima Kamara, whose presentation was categorised under four main headings:
a) Background to CRVS
b) Why CRVS?
c) Why CRVS day?
d) The Local Theme.
Speaking on birth as a vital event and as the entry point of every civil registration, Mr. Kamara highlighted the poor scenario of birth registration in the country. He accounted that 2017 data shows 81.1% of children under the age of five are registered, but only 52.9 % have birth certificates and 28.2% do not have at all. On the same note, Mr. Kamara pointed out that 36.1% of unregistered children mothers/caretakers know how to register their children, but 36.1% do not know how to register their children. Closing on the statistical data, Mr. Kamara further highlighted that 63.9% of mothers/caretakers do not know how to register the birth of the child and obtain a birth certificate. Mr. Kamara concluded his presentation by zooming out the importance of birth registration as it establishes a biological and legal status of every child; parents, place of birth and nationality.
Opening the floor for discussions, the Chairman of the meeting Mr. Amadu Juana-Kamanda, Deputy Director of Information Education and Communication (IEC) reminded all about the global theme, pointing out the key words of Innovative, Integrated and Decentralised services for the post-COVID-19 period. He encouraged participants present to work with the NCRA by strengthen partnerships and collaboration in diverse ways so that we can all make CRVS and ID Management a better system in Sierra Leone.
The programme winded up with an open discussions and active participation from the audience. Reactions from participants started with the Director of Operations NASSIT, Mr. Ediwn Mohamed Kamara who applauded the NCRA for the good work done over the years and encouraged the leadership to continue to sustain those mile stones achieved so far. Mr. Kamara further noted that the Authority should take the data generated from the public very seriously, as data management and its credibility is very critical for both institutions in the execution of their mandates. He concluded by encouraging NCRA to improve on the public education of all CRVS activities across the country. Speaking from the Civil Society point of view, Mr Keff Kobai from the National Elections Watch (NEW) suggested that NCRA should work very closely with heads of administration of all Government and Private hospitals across the country, and that policies relating to birth registration should be enforced in order to improve on the recording of births for onward obtaining of a birth certificate for newly born babies. Similar sentiments were shared by other speakers from Correctional Centre representative, Market women association representation, Children’s Commission and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation representatives respectively. Speaking on the importance of sentiments shared by previous speakers, the Hon. Minister of Transport and Aviation Mr. Rex Bonafa encouraged the NCRA to take all concerns raised very seriously. He added that, NCRA should also work with the district councils, local and traditional Authorities including other community interest groups in order to raise more awareness on the recording of all vital events especially birth, death and report course of death as and when the occur. The Hon. Deputy Minister concluded by assuring the NCRA that all agencies under his ministry will work with the NCRA especially in the areas of data sharing for critical public administration intervention.
Similar activities were carried out in the districts including the regional headquarter towns. The event was climaxed by one hour radio discussion programme held in district community radio stations and Television programmes in the regional towns. Topic of discussions were centered on birth registration, its importance, processes and procedure in obtaining a birth certificate etc. The global theme was also discussed focusing on transformational leadership, Innovation, Integration and Decentralisation services for the post-COVID-19 period. Panelists were selected from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Children’s Commission, Civil Society Organisations and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. All radio and television discussion programmes were moderated by NCRA staff. Both print and electronic media covered the event and reported accordingly.
The closing courtesy was given by the Ag. Deputy Director of Human Resource, Mrs. Roseline Massaquoi who soundly recognised the unflinching support of our development partners especially UNICEF, UNDP and IRISH-Aid, for their commitment over the years in making CRVS and ID Management a reality in Sierra Leone. The meeting ended with a group photo of all participants present.
IEC DIRECTORATE, NCRA