The United Nations, governments and development agencies at a summit in Thailand today issued a call for global action to ensure countries have the necessary support to register birth, deaths and other important events in people’s lives, stressing that this is essential to develop better health services.
“Improving civil registration systems is critical to improving health services,” noted the Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation at the World Health Organization (WHO), Marie-Paule Kieny. “When we know how many children are born, how many people die and what the principal causes of their death are, we know better where to prioritize health investments.”
At the Global Summit on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS), participants issued the ‘Bangkok Call to Action’ which calls on countries and development partners to remove barriers to universal civil registration, including out-dated laws, weak infrastructure, poor training of staff and inadequate funding.
Currently, over 200 million children around the globe have not had their birth registered and around 80 countries do not have well-functioning civil registration systems to document births and deaths, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
According to WHO, the least recorded information is cause of death, which denies governments the ability to track patterns in health and mortality.
“CRVS systems are a fundamental function of government,” said Shun-ichi Murata, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
“The registration of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces and deaths is necessary for safeguarding the human, legal, economic, social, cultural and democratic rights to which every person is entitled. Without a birth certificate, individuals face challenges going to school, seeing the doctor, accessing social protection and participating in public life.”
The Call to Action builds on momentum generated from regional initiatives launched in Asia, Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to improve birth registration, death registration and CRVS systems.
Participants also highlighted the importance of strengthening CRVS systems for the post-2015 development agenda, as they monitor trends and help develop policies and services for the population.
“Children have to be counted to count, as far as their rights are concerned, but millions of children are not registered at birth,” said the global head of child protection programmes for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Susan Bissell. “This deprives each one of an identity and the crucial birth certificate which is literally a child’s passport to benefits such as education and welfare programmes, and a shield to help protect him/her from trafficking, child labour, or other forms of abuse.”
The two-day summit was the first of its kind and was organized by WHO and the Health Metrics Network (HMN) in collaboration with ESCAP, UNICEF, other United Nations partners and Plan International.