COMBATING INVISIBILITY: GETTING EVERYONE IN THE SOMALI REGION COUNTED
BY ABDIRAHMAN AHMED @ABDIRAXMANSOCY
Addis Abeba, September 25/2020 – Lack of accurate and reliable population data makes policy formulation, development planning and political endeavor difficult. It is a must for any nations of the world to have clear-cut information about its population without which sustainable and holistic development is not attainable. Thus, population census, sample survey and vital event registrations (or civil registration) are the three major sources of demographic data. Civil registration is the best source of demographic data, compared to population census and sample surveys, as the last two are not continuous.
Civil registration (particularly birth registration) is the door to many other rights and offers administrative, legal and protection rights. It is recognized in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC. Article 7(1) and in the FDRE Constitution under its article 36 (1)
More than One-third (67/230) of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) indicators need a data generated from functional Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems and therefore SDGs will be able to deliver its promises if we know about which children are thriving and which are left behind though functional birth registration systems. Despite its multi-faceted significance and attention given in SDGs, birth registration and the overall CRVS systems and data are at their infant stages in terms of completeness, if non-existent, in many developing countries. Over 110 low- and middle-income countries lack functional civil registration systems
Ethiopia is one of the sub-Saharan countries with the lowest births and other vital events registered. Less than 10 % of its’ children under the age of 5 with their births are registered. According to Ethiopian Demographic and Health Surveys (EDHS), Somali Regional State of Ethiopia has the lowest level of birth registration records with only 1% of its children under the age of 5 with their births are registered.
A good question at this point would be what are the bottlenecks to functional civil registration system in the Somali Regional State? And, of course, how can the Somali Region count every birth? In what follows, I will briefly discuss the impediments to the system and better ways forward.
Main Obstacles to Functional Civil Registration System in The Somali Region
Financial and logistic obstacles sit in the heart of the poor civil registration system in the region. It contributes to poor office standards especially at Kebele level and the inability of Vital Event Registration Application agency (VERA) to recruit enough staff, furnish offices with the minimum necessary office materials and cascade their work beyond certain areas. Pertinent to, and as result of this, the agency faces serious challenges on logistics and human resources, and this is evident in all the registration centers (Kebeles). The lack of quality data due to incompetent staff, and the lack of regular monitoring and reporting of the registration sites is both the outcome and associated challenge.
Poor or lack of political will or government commitment and understanding among the key stakeholders has resulted in inadequate coordination and poor, if nonexistent, interoperability among the key stakeholders on civil registration works. Despite the health and statistical uses of birth registration as well as the mandate given to the health partners under proclamation number 760/12, there is a clear lack of integration between civil registration, health, education, statistical authorities and other key stakeholders in the Somali Region.
Mobile nature of pastoralists and lack of understanding of the value of civil registration is another obstacle. Majority of dwellers in the Somali Region are pastoralists who move from one place to another in search of pasture and water for their animals. But the proclamation puts restriction on the movement of the documents out of the offices. This coupled with the existing low awareness of the pastoralists on the significance of civil registration keeps the numbers of registered births and the other events in the region the lowest in the country.Read more...