(Freetown, Thursday, 19th March 2020}- The National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) and its Development Partners have made an on the sport visit to the digitization site of Births and Deaths records at the National Electoral Commission’s (NEC) Warehouse in Wellington, Freetown.

The visiting team comprised of representatives from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Union (EU) and the Director General of NCRA.

Welcoming the team, the Director General of NCRA Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi, told the Partners that he was very happy to receive them. He noted that the purpose of taking Development Partners to the digitization site was to ensure that they themselves feel and have a glimpse of the process of digitizing vital events records, beginning with Births and Deaths records. The DG also said that he wanted the team to know that the Authority has been working in line with the guidelines set by the United Nations for digitizing records. He added that since the commencement of the project that is largely funded by EU, IRISH AID and UNDP, the Authority with the guidance of the EU Technical Team Leader Genene Bizuneh has trained NCRA staff to understand and manage the digitization of records processes.

The DG announced to the team that before the commencement of the digitization process, the Authority had engaged the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to grant the NCRA access to the available births and deaths records since they have been managing them prior to now. He maintained that the Authority had taken inventory of all available records stationed in government and private health facilities nationwide. Mr. Massaquoi reported that so far, over 16,000 records have been identified in the repository of various Government Hospitals, Public Health Units (PHUs), Community Health Centers (CHCs), private hospitals and health centers and these records need to be transported to the NCRA digitization site. He pledged to continue the digitization of other vital events records once the births and deaths records which are critical is completed.

 “We have engaged the Ministry of Health and Sanitation for us to have access to those records so that we can take custody of them now, because once we have them here, we digitize them and they have to be properly kept in a manner that is prescribed by you the technical people that advise us and it is largely in line with the guidelines set by the United Nations,” Mr. Massaquoi announced.

The Director General reported that the digitization process that is ongoing at the Wellington warehouse is being funded by the EU, UNDP AND IRISH AID and it is in line with international best practice. He added that the digitization process will eventually stymie the concept of one man to multiple records. “With the digitization process in place, the issue of one man holding to multiple records will be a thing of the past,” the DG said.

Explaining the various stages of the digitization process to the team, the Acting Director of ICT of the NCRA, Henry Swaray said that when the books are retrieved from the Government Hospitals, PHUs, CHCs, and private health facilities they have to be stored, which is the entry point, unbounded, recorded, scanned and then go through the quality control section, before finally being archived, which is the final stage of the process. He also noted that the Authority has decided to allocate codes to all Public Health Units (PHUs) in the country to enhance effective and efficient work and ease of reference. “In total we have about 7 different stages every book has to go through before it gets to the archiving section,” the Director of ICT said. He thanked the EU Technical team led by Mr. Genene Bizuneh for their legal and technical input rendered to the NCRA in the digitization project.

The EU Technical team leader Genene Bizuneh said that he was very much happy with the ongoing digitization process of births and deaths records in the country which is very challenging. He informed the Development Partners representatives that the way and manner in which the books were kept in the various health facilities in the country, was not best practice. He assured the representatives that the current digitization process will ensure clarity and safe keeping of such records by the NCRA.

“When we were in the field the way the books were kept, they were not properly archived, nobody knows what number of books they have, where they are, so for NCRA this is a very huge national and international achievement,” Mr. Bizuneh said.

The Team Leader for Governance at the European Union embassy in Sierra Leone, Ms. Seirena Bertaina expressed profound gratitude to the Director General for his visible efforts in taking the Authority on the right path. She maintained that she was satisfied with the ongoing births and deaths digitization process and pledged continued support.

The team was taking through the seven stages of the digitization process by the Acting Director of ICT, Mr. Henry Swaray.

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