29 July 2017

Ethiopia: Foreign Nationals, Refugees to Get Certificates for Vital Events

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(File photo).

The Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) will start the registration of vital events including birth, marriage, divorce, and death, for foreign nationals, Ethiopians of origin, and refugees starting next week.

The Agency had its proclamation amended on July 6, 2017, allowing it to broaden its scope of registration from only local residences. The formation of the Agency was realised last year even though the Parliament enacted the establishment proclamation in 2012.

"The need for the proclamation was to include those who were excluded," said Elsa Tesfay, director general of VERA.

The unconventional and uncoordinated practice of vital events registration for foreign nationals had been there for years. However, it was not supported by a legal framework, and there was no well-developed system of record in the country.

Though the proclamation came as a response to the absence of a legal procedure to register vital events, it was not inclusive, according to Gezehegn Mekonnen, director of Research & System Improvement at the Agency.

The vital events registration system is a conventional data source that produces timely, continuous and comprehensive population dynamics information which is an input for policy and decision making. Moreover, it is a human right for a child to be recognized at birth, and acknowledging marriages, deaths, and divorces help people get social and legal service in Ethiopia.

"It also has a positive contribution to national security and safety," Gezehegn said.

For the registration process, the Agency has already developed manual and digital recording systems at the cost of 114 million Br at a federal level. Now, regional state offices are taking over the job, and the Agency is providing support.

Except for refugees, there will not be a new document to be prepared for foreign nationals and Ethiopians of origin. VERA and the regional offices will use the existing records. The foreign nationals have to register in Addis Abeba, and the Ethiopian diaspora members and refugees can register in the regional states and camps where they go or stay.

Indrias Mahari, an Eritrean with two children born in Ethiopia, lives as a refugee at May-Ayni refugee camp, in Tigray Regional State. He remembers that he had to request for registration of his two kids. Of course, his kids were acknowledged and registered in a hospital where they were born, and by the administration of the camp after he showed them his family's refugee status document.

"However, it was not easy," he remembers. Particularly, since last year, many of his friends were having some difficulties in processing vital events registration.

The Agency has allocated more than three million Birr to prepare the recording documents for refugees and more than 160,000 Br for consultation forums to raise awareness, Gezehegn stated.

In addition to birth, marriage, divorce and death, the vital events registration that Ethiopia practices includes adoption acknowledgement of a child and judicial declaration of paternity.

The vital events registration system is the primary source of vital statistics. Copies of registration records can be used as legal documents for evidentiary purposes for individuals and can be used as input for decision making in administrative applications such as designing public health programmes and undertaking the electoral roll.

The issuance of certificate and registration fees for the vital events ranges from 20 to 50 Br. And as for the process to get the certificates, there is no special time arrangement for foreign nationals and Ethiopians of origin.

The Agency has started operation in 14,264 stations out of the 18,506 registration stations it prepared for Ethiopians. It has registered a total of 323,920 vital events in the past nine months.

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