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Improving birth registration in Tanzania: The initiative that registered 220,000 children in four weeks


Located in Eastern Africa, Tanzania has one of the lowest birth registration rates on the continent. But change is on the horizon thanks to a new initiative, which is being rolled out across the country from 2015 to 2020.

Why are birth registration rates in Tanzania so low?

Only 11.5% of newborns in Tanzania have had their births registered. Less than 13% of children under age 5 have a birth certificate. There are several reasons for these low rates, including:

  • Cost – Parents have to pay 3,500 Tanzanian shillings ($1.52 US) to register a birth, as well as the cost of travel to the registration office. It’s a high price in a country where the median household income is $2.11 per day.
  • Distance – Tanzania inherited a highly centralized CRVS system from the colonial era. This means that many individuals, particularly those living in rural areas, have to make several trips across long distances to register a birth.
  • Awareness – Many parents aren’t aware of the urgency or benefits of birth registration. They may see it as a low priority or unnecessary use of time and money.
  • Inequalities – Vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, particularly women and girls, often struggle to access civil registration services due to social, cultural, economic, and legal obstacles.

How is the new initiative improving birth registration rates?

Tanzania’s Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA) has launched an initiative in partnership with UNICEF and the telecommunications company Tigo to lower some of the barriers to birth registration.

In 2016, the initiative was implemented in the Iringa and Njombe regions of Tanzania. More than 220,000 children were registered in four weeks as a direct result, increasing the regions’ birth registration rate from 10.3% to more than 95%.

The initiative reduced financial obstacles by waiving registration fees and giving parents the first copy of the birth certificate for free.

It also addressed the issue of distance by declaring health facilities and ward offices across the two regions as registration points. Parents can now register their child’s birth at one of 700 locations compared to the previous 11.

Mobile technology has played a big part in making this decentralized system possible. Health workers are able to send birth registration details to a central database via their mobile phone.

This success story is an example of how technology, country-specific research, and inter-sector partnerships can be used to improve civil registration rates.

Interested in learning more?

The Centre of Excellence for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems is helping to promote similar case studies by supporting research, documenting good practices, and publishing lessons learned.

You can learn more about the barriers to civil registration and potential solutions in our article, Improving birth registration for an inclusive Africa.

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