THE United Nations Statistics Division defines civil registration as “the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events pertaining to the population as provided through decree or regulation in accordance with the legal requirements of a country.”
A vital event is further defined as: “the occurrence of a live birth, death, foetal death, marriage, divorce, adoption, legitimation, recognition of parenthood, annulment of marriage, or legal separation.” Complete coverage, accuracy and timeliness of civil registration are essential for quality vital statistics, which can be used for planning of human development. This article aims at demonstrating the use of statistics in the implementation of a civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system in our country.
2.0 Civil Registration
2.1 The Ministry of Home Affairs through the Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship developed a National Strategic Action Plan for Reforming and Improving Civil Registration and Vital Statistics for the period 2014 – 2019.
The aim of the plan is to improve Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System (CRVS) in the country. The Vision of the plan is and I quote: “A Zambia where all vital events are registered and vital statistics derived therefrom by the year 2030.”
2.2 The main purpose of civil registration is to meet legal requirements by: providing documentary evidence on which to base claims of identity, legal status and ensuing rights. According to the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 Article 42, a citizen is entitled to: (b) a document of identification issued by the State to citizens. This can only be made possible through civil registration as it also provides proof of age, and allows access to rights based on age such as entry into school, and voting rights, and election to political office. All children born after 14th March 1973 are required to obtain birth certificates.
3.0 Vital Statistics
3.1 Vital statistics, also known as vital events or vital records, are an important source of demographic data. Statistical explanations are given to events such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc. Furthermore, they provide cumulative summaries for successive time periods of population movements like birth, death, marriage and divorces as well as demographic and other relevant characteristics of the individuals involved in these events.
3.2 Vital statistics are important to the people and the nation. For example, a birth certificate issued by the registering authority is an important document which records the date, time, place and parentage of the person. It establishes his/her identity as the citizen of the country.
It is a legal document which is used for admission to a school, for getting a passport to travel abroad and even to migrate to another country, etc. Similarly, a marriage certificate records the marital status of a couple and legalises the birth of children from that marriage. Certificates relating to birth, death, marriage, divorce, etc. have legal importance.
3.3 Vital statistics relating to births and deaths can be used in health and family planning programmes of the government. The causes of deaths, and the mortality rates of different categories help in assessing the health condition of the people. Accordingly, government can formulate health programmes such as cholera prevention, malaria eradication, polio and small pox immunisation, tuberculosis, etc.
3.5 Data provided by vital statistics relating to trend and growth of population in the various age groups and on the whole, helps planners and administrators to plan and formulate policies for public health, education, housing, etc.
Vital statistics help in analysing the population trends at any given point of time in a country.
They try to fill the gap between two censuses and relate to the composition, size, distribution and growth of population. It is on their basis that population projections can be made.
3.6 Vital statistics help in formulating policies for providing social security to the people. Even the rules for immigration and emigration can be framed on the basis of population growth data.
3.7 Vital statistics are also used for updating electoral rolls and demarcation of constituencies.
3.8 Actuarial scientists can use deaths information as input in calculating life tables and estimating the probability of dying at various ages.
4.0 Marriage and Divorce Registration
Registration of Marriages is regulated under the Marriages Act chapter 50 of the Laws of Zambia. Only statutory marriages are regulated under the Marriages Act and therefore registered with the office of the Registrar General.
It is important to note that Customary Marriages are not regulated under the Marriages Act. Ideally, divorces are supposed to be captured in the CRVS system but only a few are captured.
5.0 Cause of Death
5.1 In Zambia, deaths are registered under the Births and Deaths Registration Act chapter 51 of the Laws of Zambia. Registration of deaths is critical in generating causes of death statistics because individual deaths are registered with causes of death. Vital Statistics are produced on the causes of death. This information is based on civil registration data.
5.2 Importance of cause-of-death information to evaluate the health of the local, regional and national population. Cause-of-death statistics are mainly used to: describe and explain levels, trends and differentials in mortality; identify emerging diseases and conditions, and track changes in the burden of disease in different groups; guide priorities for intervention programmes; and contribute to socio-medical biomedical research; monitor the impact of public health programmes; allocate and distribute resources within the health sector;. Information on the mortality patterns of populations is important for health policy and planning. Mortality data are commonly used to calculate the burden of major diseases within population groups or across geographical regions. Determining and monitoring the leading causes of death are vital activities as these are primary indicators of the overall health status or quality of life of a population. Because of the many important public health uses to which cause-of-death statistics are put, ensuring their accuracy is vital.
5.3 The production of good-quality mortality data requires a system in which: all deaths are registered (with an assigned cause of death) by either the civil registration or the vital statistics systems, and that these two systems are integrated; all deaths are medically certified using the For a death to be medically certified, a physician must complete a death certificate and give a judgement on the causes that led to the death.
Only a medically trained person can reliably do this, and diagnose the precise cause of death. Mortality statistics are based upon determining the single underlying cause of death, which is the disease or injury that initiated the sequence of events that led directly to death.
It is this underlying cause of death that is amenable to preventative public health interventions. Sometimes causes of deaths are determined through verbal autopsy, which is a structured interview with caregivers or family members of households after a death occurs.
It is used to determine probable cause(s) of death where most deaths occur outside health facilities, and where direct medical certification is rare. It is extremely important that the underlying cause is determined and accurately recorded.
There is need to strengthen our Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system as they are important in good governance, development planning, monitoring and evaluation. The usefulness of vital statistics depends to a large extent on the completeness with which the vital events are registered.
Despite the importance of vital statistics, there is urgent need to improve their availability, timeliness and quality. The health sector is not only a beneficiary of complete and reliable civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system, but can also make a substantial contribution to the recording of events in a CRVS system.