Published on Investing in Health

How a new eLearning course will help improve countries’ civil registration and vital statistics systems

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Civil registration and vital statistics systems enable parents to certify
children at birth. A birth certificate provides proof of age, which enables
access to essential services (e.g., health care, education, welfare grants) and
protects against child marriage and child labor.
Photo: Ray Witlin / World Bank

For some people in low- and middle-income countries, opening a bank account, taking out a loan, obtaining a driver’s license, or sending their children to school is out of reach because they don’t have official documents that prove their legal identity. Why do some people lack birth certificates, marriage certificates, family members’ death certificates, and other documentation?

Data on vital events such as births, deaths, adoptions, marriages, and divorces, also known as vital statistics, are crucial for planning and monitoring each country’s targeted policies, programs, and services. The best source of vital statistics is a well-functioning civil registration system that registers these events in a continuous, permanent, compulsory, and universal way. Yet, more than 110 low- and middle-income countries have deficient civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems.
Civil registration allows individuals to obtain legal identification and social services and to prove their age and nationality, among other things. CRVS systems also contribute to good governance by, for instance, providing reliable data to support informed decision-making for government policies, programs, and services. A well-functioning CRVS system provides more timely and reliable disaggregated data for monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and national development plans than other methods of obtaining statistics on a population, such as censuses and sample surveys. A recent World Bank Group review showed that 67 of the 230 SDG indicators, covering 12 of the 17 SDG goals, require well-functioning CRVS systems for effective monitoring.

CRVS Expert Talks – Samuel Mills
Samuel Mills, an expert from the World Bank Group, outlines important steps — such as prioritizing activities and reviewing legislation — to build high functioning CRVS systems. Video by: Centre of Excellence for CRVS Systems, International Development Research Centre

The SDGs have recognized the importance of improving CRVS globally; one target of SDG 16  is to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030. To help meet the SDGs, the first-ever 21st century, state-of-the-art, comprehensive CRVS eLearning course is being launched on May 23, 2017, at a high-level event in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Developed by the Global CRVS Group (comprised of organizations that support CRVS systems at the global, regional, and national levels) and the World Bank Group Open Learning Campus (OLC), in partnership with the Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the course demonstrates the commitment of development partners and governments to work closely together in achieving this SDG goal.
As the recent chair of the Global CRVS Group, I along with the OLC had the privilege of coordinating and leading the effort to develop this CRVS eLearning program. The course aims to train policymakers, public and civil servants, university students, researchers, development practitioners, and civil society organizations by providing practical tools and approaches to building and maintaining CRVS systems that are linked to identity management systems and tailored to local contexts. You can join in the efforts to enhance CRVS capacity right now by registering for the OLC and then enrolling in the first self-paced core course, which is free.  Based on feedback from learners, we will then launch the full facilitated course, with 13 modules and guided by global experts, in September 2017.
Jeanette Nzayikoreza, 20 years old, 6 months pregnant, came to the
Manyange health center with her medical insurance card to
have a check up.   USAID/Riccardo Gangale
A multisectoral approach
CRVS systems are multisectoral. We often need to work with several ministries, such as the Ministry of Health for birth and death registration and medical certification of cause of death; the Ministry of Justice for marriage, divorce, and adoption; the National Statistics Office for data analysis and dissemination; and the National Identification Agency for linkage with identity management systems. To delve into such different aspects of CRVS systems, this course is organized into 13 modules. The modules were written by experts with extensive experience working with countries on improving CRVS systems and representing several organizations, such as the World Bank Group, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center of Excellence for CRVS Systems, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Statistics Division, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Children's Fund, United Nations Population Fund, World Health Organization, African Development Bank, Ewha Woman’s University, Korea University, University of Nairobi, Statistics Norway, Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative, Plan International, African Development Bank, and many more.
The OLC, which helped develop and is offering the course, is the World Bank Group’s single destination for online development learning for its staff, clients, and partners. It simplifies and consolidates the World Bank Group’s learning programs and provides an integrated and dynamic joint learning environment.

This new eLearning course adds to the World Bank Group’s commitment to improving CRVS. The World Bank Group Data Council endorsed the 2016–2030 CRVS Action Plan as part of the Strategic Actions Program for Addressing Development Data Gaps in December 2015, which has a goal of achieving universal civil registration of births, deaths, and other vital events for everyone by 2030. The plan outlines a costed three-pronged approach for improving CRVS systems in low- and middle-income countries, including strengthening national institutions, establishing and updating international standards and tools, and building the evidence base with implementation research. The World Bank Group has set a target of 20 CRVS-related lending operations for International Development Association 18 (July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2020) in different sectors.
Each of these commitments will help build robust CRVS systems linked to identity management systems and tailored to local contexts, contributing to the SDGs to end poverty and ensuring prosperity for all.


Samuel Mills

Senior Health Specialist, Health Nutrition & Population Global Practice at the World Bank Group

Sheila Jagannathan

Head of the Open Learning Campus at the World Bank

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