Tokelau’s CRVS system in the Pacific spotlight

At a conference at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Noumea this week, Pacific delegates discussed systems they have in place or are developing for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics. CRVS is an important issue for Tokelau, to make sure that births, deaths and marriages (BDM) are registered when they occur, and help keep track of the official number of Tokelauans.

Tokelau was represented at the 4-day conference by its BDM Officer Ruby Fuimaono, Health representative Rosa Toloa, and Statistics adviser dr iapi Jasperse.

In her presentation on behalf of Tokelau’s Registrar, Ruby showcased the system that was set up a few years ago for registering all births and deaths on the atolls and that is now starting to pay off.
Electronic registrations in a computer database are part of that, supplementing the manual recording system that is vulnerable to natural disasters such as the Apia office flood during cyclone Evan in 2012.

The conference discussed many aspects of CRVS, including the basic human right of a child to have a name and an official birthplace: this information must be recorded in a legal birth certificate. That  document in turn is essential for obtaining a passport if the person wants to travel later in life. It may also be a necessary prerequisite for a child to get medical care and schooling.

It is also important that when a person dies, a formal record is made that includes the official cause of death. Those details are important for accumulating health statistics of the population and life expectancy, for example. A death record is also necessary if there are issues of inheritance to be resolved.

It can be problematic for a country to have a comprehensive record of births and deaths, especially if people move overseas to give birth or get medical care and may die there. Even the records of people from Tokelau (or the other New Zealand Realm countries, Niue and Cooks Islands) who are born or pass away in New Zealand are not automatically transferred back to the country of origin.

The conference discussed ways of reducing the time between birth or death and the official registration of such “life events” in Pacific countries and territories. Many PICTs including Tokelau have gaps in their registration records and delegates discussed various ways for improvement.

Practically all new births in Tokelau are now recorded (with hospitals and local deputy-registrars playing their part) and birth certificates issued from the Tokelau Apia Liaison Officer (where the Registrar resides). But there are still some gaps to be filled, especially historically.
Where birth and death records exist for Tokelauans, only about 5 percent of certificates remain to be issued, Ruby Fuimoano said in her presentation (attached). All the data are currently entered into a computer database that already covers about 60 percent of births, she said. SCP1twitter22feb16-600

Pictured: CRVS delegates in the conference hall of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Noumea, New Caledonia. Above: Ruby Fuimaono delivering the presentation on behalf of Tokelau.
Once complete, then the death records will be entered also. Such an electronic collection of personal details is much less vulnerable to loss by disasters, and also easier to transfer for other purposes - while ensuring that people’s privacy is respected.

The Tokelau presentation can be viewed here: Tokelau – civil registration & vital statistics (pdf, 562 kB)