The National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) in collaboration with its Development Partners, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other key stakeholders including Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the field of Civil Registration, Vital Statistics and Identity Management (CRVS/ID) launched and published the Vital Statistics Report for 2022, on 7th November, 2023. The occasion took place at the Conference Hall, Ministry of Finance, George Street in Freetown. This ground breaking event marked a significant achievement in fulfilling the core mandate of the NCRA, thereby demonstrating its commitment with support of the Government of Sierra Leone in making the integrated CRVS and ID management programme a success.

In his opening Remarks, the Chairman of the event, Mr. Francis Langumba Keili began by commending the tremendous work done by the NCRA, acknowledging the challenging  yet very important milestone in achieving  its mandate. He proudly informed the gathering that the launch of the 2022 Vital Statistics Report signifies the end of Development Partners’ involvement in publishing such reports.

“As a new institution on the bloc, the NCRA has lived up to its mandates since its establishment in 2016. Even though the recording and reporting of vital events prove to be herculean, the leadership of the Authority with support from the Government of Sierra Leone and its Development Partners has worked assiduously to positioned Sierra Leone on the Regional and International stage when it comes to CRVS and Identity management,” Mr. Keili applauded. Dilating on the overview of the Authority, the Director General of NCRA; Mohamed Mubashir MASSAQUOI expressed his delight as the launch and publication of the Report marked a momentous day for the NCRA, representing another significant accomplishment of one of the Authority’s core mandates for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Sierra Leone.

“The production of this report is in fulfillment of Section 15 (1d) of the NCR Act of 2016 which mandates the NCRA to maintain the national civil registration system for vital statistics at Chiefdom, District, Regional and National levels. Additionally, Section 26 (1) outlines the responsibility to collect, abstract and publish vital statistics” Mr. MASSAQUOI cited.

The Director General added that  Section 27 (1) mandates the NCRA to be responsible for the “Continuous, Permanent, Universal and Compulsory recording of occurrence and characteristics of vital events including Birth, Death, Marriage, Divorce, Nullity, Adoption, Legitimization and Recognition of citizens and other residents throughout Sierra Leone and to establish and maintain a Civil Register of events”.

Highlighting the importance of Vital Statistics, Mr. MASSAQUOI emphasized that Civil Registration is the most reliable source of Vital Statistics and serves three distinct purposes – Legal, Administrative and Statistical.

While the legal and administrative purposes are commonly acknowledged, he noted that comparatively less attention is given to the statistical usage of Civil Registration records. 

“Vital statistics are instrumental for planning, monitoring and evaluating various government and developmental programmes, maternal and child health, education, public administration, local government planning and accountable service delivery,” Mr.  MASSAQUOI informed.

The Director General expressed immense gratitude for the support NCRA has incessantly and predictably continued to receive from the Government of Sierra Leone for the CRVS and Identity Management initiative in the country. He further acknowledged the contribution of the Ministry of Health (MoH) towards the completion of Births and Deaths report from health facilities to have a harmonized data on the two events. “We appreciate the support of other MDAs, CSOs, and the Inter-Religious Council who in diverse ways continue to lend support to the work of the NCRA,” he ended.

The Statistician-General, Mr. Andrew Bob Johnny, expressed optimism, hoping that the report would contribute to a well-functioning CRVS system. Apart from providing the people of Sierra Leone a reflection of their identity, he emphasized that it serves as an important source of timely and reliable vital statistics. ‘’This embodies the spirit of true partnership which is necessary in moving forward our development agenda across MDAs,’’ he alluded. 

Mr Johnny further noted that, the launch and publication would strengthen and consolidate the resolve of NCRA to provide much-needed vital statistics information about the citizenry of Sierra Leone, which will serve as a benchmark for MDAs and Development Partners in the planning and implementing their activities. The Statistician-General added that the vital statistics report has come at a defining moment for Sierra Leoneans whose utilization of these statistics is increasing day by day. Mr Johnny concluded on an appealing note, urging the leadership of the NCRA to ensure regular publication of similar report on Civil Registration. This practice, he stressed would provide a comprehensive picture of CRVS at a glance, thereby complementing and strengthening the mandate of the Authority. 

Emphasising on the need for partnership and collaboration, the Deputy Country Representative of UNFPA, Ms. Sibeso Mululuma pointed out a number of reasons why CRVS/ID Management must be taken seriously. She added that vital statistics provide real-time, reliable data disaggregated at the lowest level by sex, geography and other locally relevant characteristics. Ms. Sibeso confirmed that government can use vital statistics data to identify problems and make effective policies, including programmes to address the unique needs of women, girls and other vulnerable groups in society. She assured that public health monitoring; policy development and planning; resource allocation including demographic analysis are effectively and reliably informed by a good vital statistics data in any country. “The UNFPA is proud to be associated with the launch of this report, having sustained partnership with the NCRA, in the finalization and validation of the report; partnership that is expected to continue through our joint efforts alongside other UN Agencies to strengthen civil registration and vital statistics system in Sierra Leone,” Ms. Sibeso noted. She concluded by reaffirming UNFPA’s commitment to support NCRA and by extension the Government and the people of Sierra Leone in Making CRVS and ID Management a success. 

The UNICEF Representative, Dr. Robert Ndamolussi reaffirmed his organisation’s continued support and collaboration with the NCRA on improving the supply and accessibility of birth registration services. “Our journey towards the sustained timely production and publication of vital statistics is far from over. As we celebrate our achievements, we must also acknowledge the challenges that remain,” Dr. Ndamolussi cautioned.

“We will keep working diligently to further strengthen CRVS Systems and enhance the reach through capacity building, improving data quality, harnessing power of innovation to bridge existing gaps,” he assured.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative, Dr. Binyan Haillu also underscored the critical need for data on every citizen in the country, emphasizing that birth is the entry point and death is a dignified exist. He commended the NCRA for putting together these vital events that inform policy decisions in development interventions. He encouraged the leadership to increase efforts in order to improve on the registration coverage of all the events. According to Dr Haillu, with accurate data from the NCRA, the country would be able to reduce its indices on the infant mortality rate. He rallied support for more resources to complement the work of the Authority and pledged commitment to providing the needed inputs. 

Presenting his PowerPoint slides, the Director of Vital Statistics and Research, Dr. Sahr Entua Yambasu, highlighted critical areas identified as findings of the report and explained the methodology used to ascertain figures mentioned in the report. Dr. Yambasu revealed that the report covers the sexes of all birth, death, marriage, divorce, nullity and adoption that occurred in all the Sixteen Administrative Districts of the country. He concluded by encouraging Development Partners to join in partnership and collaboration to overcome identified challenges preventing improved coverage of vital events registration in the country.

In his Keynote address during the launch and publication of the Report, the Minister of Local Government and Community Affairs, Mr. Tamba Lamina, who also acted as the caretaker Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, praise the NCRA for a job well done. This is the first time that Sierra Leone has undertaken the responsibility of preparing a historic report that was previously handled by its foreign partners. “The Vital Statistics Report will effectively help policy makers, the Government and other development partners with planning and implementing of the country’s development programmes,’’ he stated.

The Minister called upon all partners and stakeholders working on CRVS to strengthen collaboration and support to the NCRA, as the 2022 Vital Statistics Report has highlighted a number of grey areas for improvement, especially in increasing registration coverage across the country particularly in river-line and hard to reach communities. He encouraged the NCRA to create a one-stop centre for the management of all Vital Statistics records in the country. 

Pledging on behalf of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, Mr. Lamina committed to work with all local authorities across the country to create by-laws that will support Civil Registration, Vital Statistics and its related issues in chiefdoms and localities.

On behalf of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Tamba Lamina formally launched the 2022 Vital Statistics Report in a grand style.

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