The Government of Rwanda has finally endorsed civil registration services at health facilities around the country where designated members of staff can legally register events such as births and deaths.
The decision was announced in a statement during an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Tuesday, June 16.
According to the statement, Cabinet approved a long-awaited "Ministerial Order determining a health officer with powers of a civil registrar."
In the past, what was allowed was notification but not registration as a civil registrar must be at a health facility for things to work accordingly.
The same cabinet meeting also approved the Presidential Order determining the responsibilities of a Cell Executive Officer.
The Order gives powers to the Cell Executive Secretary, based on the information provided by the head of the Village where the event took place, to register births and deaths that "occur in places other than a health facility for persons having known civil status."
The development follows the publication, on February 2, of an amended 2016 Law Governing Persons and Family, with clauses on civil registration particularly changed to improve the registration of civil events like births and deaths.
The revised law, among other things, states that an officer of a health facility has the power of civil registrar to record births and deaths that occur there.
The approved Order of the Minister in charge of civil registration who is the Minister of Local Government - among others, specifies the officer of the health facility who has that power, his or her responsibilities and the modalities for performance of such responsibilities.
While waiting for the Ministerial Order to be approved, Josephine Mukesha, Director-General of the National Identification Agency, earlier told The New Times they had already trained two people in each health facility in the country.
On Wednesday, Mukesha said: "I am very happy! Especially now, with Covid-19 restrictions, this comes as a way to ensure civil registration is continuous and done at the place of events, in this case health facilities."
There are more than 550 health facilities - including private ones - in the country, and all have trained personnel ready to handle civil registration duties.
Why Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) is important
Civil registration as defined by the UN is the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events, such as birth and death, of the population in accordance with the law.
According to Mukesha, CRVS is very important as it is the basis for the identification of someone.
Lately, she says, there is more focus on birth and death because they are the most important points in ensuring everyone is indeed identified and thus has access to rights and services they are entitled to either as citizens of a country or residents; refugees or foreign residents.
Rwanda recognises nine vital events: birth, death, marriage, and divorce, annulment of marriage, guardianship, adoption, recognition, and legitimation.
From the civil registration point of view, the registration of these events allows citizens to get benefits including services they are entitled to.
And from the vital statistics perspective, Mukesha said, timely and complete registration of these events allows for the extraction of vital statistics used as indicators for planning, fact-based decision making, and policy formulation.