Keeping momentum on state-of-the-art CRVS systems

National civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems provide necessary population data to monitor national and sub-national development programs as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Oct 23, 2019
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By: Samuel Mills, MD, DrPH, World Bank Group

Civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems provide the foundation for good governance. In some countries, a large number of births and deaths are not registered with appropriate authorities and thus are excluded from the government system. This results in individuals lacking proof of legal identity and vital events such as live birth, death, fetal death, marriage, divorce, etc., and the country not having accurate population data such as the number of births, deaths, and causes of death. 

For over two decades, the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Bank Group (WBG), and the United Nations Population Division have published maternal mortality estimates and each report notes that the estimates for most low- and middle-income countries are derived from deficient CRVS systems. The latest WHO maternal mortality report released in September 2019 recommends that governments “establish well-functioning CRVS systems with accurate attribution of cause of death.” In recent years, countries and development partners have increased their efforts to improve CRVS systems. 

The Global Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Scaling Up Investment Plan 2015-2024 released in 2014 by the World Bank and WHO, and development partners helped set the stage for increasing resources for CRVS. It also provided the foundation for international organizations and regional institutions to coordinate the efforts of countries and establish more public discussion and information exchange. 

Countries around the globe are at different stages of building and strengthening their CRVS systems. This peer-reviewed issue on CRVS systems in low- and middle-income countries published in Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition draws from country experiences and presents the best practices and recommendations on how to improve CRVS systems globally. The following topics are covered:

  • An introduction to the CRVS systems with applications in low- and middle-income countries
  • Benefits of linking CRVS with identity management systems for measuring and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 (health related) indicators
  • A multisectoral institutional arrangements approach to integrating civil registration, vital statistics and identity management systems
  • Unique health identifiers for universal health coverage
  • Cloud-based services for electronic CRVS systems
  • eLearning course for improving CRVS systems
  • A missed opportunity: Birth registration coverage is lagging behind Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) immunization coverage and maternal health services utilization in low- and lower-middle-income countries
  • Economic analysis of producing vital statistics using civil registration data in Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • Obstacles to birth registration in Niger: Estimates from a recent household survey

The manuscripts included in the issue present the approaches to achieving twenty-first-century state-of-the-art CRVS systems that are linked to identity management systems.

Samuel Mills, MD, DrPH, is a Senior Health Specialist, Health Nutrition & Population Global Practice at the World Bank Group (WBG). He was previously the Chair of the interagency Global CRVS Group, and he coordinated the efforts of several international experts in developing a comprehensive 21st-century CRVS e-Learning course as part of the WBG Open Learning Campus.

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