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UNECA: COVID-19 brings into focus importance of vital statistics

People wait for COVID-19 vaccination at Soweto's Baragwanath hospital in South Africa on Dec 13, 2021. (JEROME DELAY / AP)

ADDIS ABABA – The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of having timely and reliable vital events data, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) said.

According to the UNECA, the pandemic brought into sharp focus the critical role that civil registration and vital statistics systems play in ensuring that everyone is counted for inclusive access to vaccination, health care, social protection and other government services

The UNECA made the statement as the African continent marked the fifth Africa Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Day, which is commemorated annually on Aug 10.

This year's edition of the Africa Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Day is being commemorated under the theme "harnessing coordination, country leadership and ownership to strengthen integrated civil registration and vital statistics systems: a vehicle for counting everyone."

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The UNECA said the theme highlighted the need for a sustained political commitment at the country level, with African governments taking leadership and ownership in strengthening their respective civil registration and vital statistics systems.

According to the UNECA, the pandemic brought into sharp focus the critical role that civil registration and vital statistics systems play in ensuring that everyone is counted for inclusive access to vaccination, health care, social protection and other government services.

"The past two years have been a tragic reminder of the challenges countries face in accurately counting the lives lost during the coronavirus disease pandemic," the UNECA said.

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The Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Day was proclaimed by the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) in January 2018 as a vehicle to enhance advocacy on the importance of civil registration and vital statistics systems for the continent's growth.

The UNECA said well-coordinated civil registration and vital statistics systems benefit citizens while simultaneously informing public policy toward informed decisions.

Leadership, along with advances in systems thinking, demographic analysis and digital technologies, are key pillars for improving systems, which are at the foundation of the digital public infrastructure that many countries are putting into place, it said.

The annual commemorative event serves as a reminder for African countries to reaffirm their commitment to taking leadership and ownership in strengthening their civil registration and vital statistics systems, according to the AU.

The AU had previously emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the vulnerabilities of the civil registration system when actually the services are required the most.