WHAT IS VITAL REGISTRATION
A very important source of population statistics, consists of the continues and permanent registration of vital events, particularly births and deaths. In any modern sate, this is considered a principal activity because of the number of uses to which statistics generated from vital registration can be put.
The united nations handbook of vital statistics methods, defines the vital statistics system as “……………… including the legal registration, statistical recording and reporting of the occurrence of and the collection, compilation, analysis, presentation and distribution of statistics pertaining to vital events which include: live-birth, deaths, foetal deaths, marriages, divorces, adoptions , legitimizations, annulment and legal separations.”
In Ghana, registration of vital events is limited to the registration of births, deaths and foetal deaths. After a series of memoranda, recommendations and publications had been made, in which the need for the establishment of an efficient births and deaths registration system had been advocated, due to the legal importance of the registrations system for legal and administration purposes, demographic estimates, medical research and public health planning, the Births and Death Registry was established in 1965, within the Ministry of local Government, to handle and develop the births and deaths registration system in the country.
Births and Death records provide the most authentic legal documents for establishing evidence about a person’s age, parentage, birth place and nationality. On the basis of this evidence, a persons civic and legal rights in the society are determined. These may include: the right to insurance claims and social security benefits, to inheritance and child maintenance allowances and to the attainment of a certain social status.
Births certificates are also used in the determination of a persons eligibility for admission to school, to obtain travel documents (passports), to enter certain fields of employment or economic activity and to register as voter in presidential, parliamentary and local council election. In countries where births and deaths registration systems are highly developed, the records are used as checks in the review of electoral registers and of social security records.
Births and Deaths records readily provide statistics required in the demographic analysis of a population for economic and social purposes. They provide the numerator for measures of fertility and mortality levels and are utilized in the estimation of inter-censal population, of the rate of population growth and in the preparation of population projections. The latter being the bedrock on which all national development plans and programmes in the social and economic fields lie. The statistics are used to evaluate the operations of other governmental agencies, such as family planning and health programmes.
Births and Death registration also has medical uses, as data about deaths and their causes as obtained on death records are important in the planning of health services and target setting.
HISTORY OF VITAL REGISTRATION IN GHANA
The idea and practice of vital registration in this country, dates back to 1888, when the earliest known vital registration law, the cemeteries ordinance was passed. This ordinance which was first established the registration system was public health oriented as it provided for only the registration of deaths, with the primary objective of regulating the interment of human bodies in certain areas of the then Gold-Coast.
During this early period, the vital registration activity was not assigned to any specific governmental agency. It was later that it became associated with the sanitary branch of the Department of Medical Services, when the latter was established in 1895.
In 1891, the cemeteries ordinance was amended to cater for new provisions and extensions were also made to the scope of most of the provisions contained in the earlier ordinance. However, the regulation of burials being the main objective of the registration law remained unchanged.
In spite of the fact that the 1891 ordinance made significant improvements in the registration system as established under the ordinance of 1888, the real foundation of a modern registration of 1888, the real foundation of a modern registration system in the country was laid by the Births, Deaths and Burials ordinance enacted in 1912. This ordinance provided for many of the important characteristics of the present day conventional vital registration system. All the registration officials were drawn from the staff of the Department of Medical Services. Fifteen years later, in 1926, the Births, Deaths and Burials ordinance of 1962 was passed to replace the ordinance of 1912. this new ordinance sought to make better provisions for the births, deaths and burials registration system in the country. New provisions were again introduced and the scope and content of many of the provisions of the preceding ordinance were also either extended or made more comprehensive, definite or specific. For the first time in the history of vital registration laws in the country, the new ordinance contained some distinctive provisions for Africans (naivies( and non-Afrivans.
The registration system that existed under the 1912 and 1926 ordinance could not produce adequate and efficient vital statistical data to reveal the fertility and morality situation in the country, as a whole, as
its coverage provided births and deaths registration facilities in only the few more urbanized headquarters and commercial towns in the country. All this while, the registration system continued to be the responsibility of the Department of Medical Services until April 1952 when this responsibility was transferred to the Registrar General’s Department.
The registration ordinance of 1926 remained in force till 1965 when it was replaced by the current vital registration legislation, the Registration of Births and Deaths Act of 1965, popularly referred to as Act 301 of 1965.
The Registration of Births and Deaths Act, was the first and only the vital registration legislation in the country since the country’s independence. It makes provision for the registration of births and deaths compulsory in all parts of the country and is applicable to the entire population of Ghana, irrespective of race, or country of origin.
The Act also provides for the registration of fetal deaths and seeks among other things to: promote public heath in the country; to extend births and deaths registration facilities to the entire population of the country and establish an efficient system of births and deaths registration record for the people in the country and to obtain vital statistics data which are adequate and efficient enough for deriving reliable demographic estimates and for public health planning.
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