Birth registration

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-2285/LeMoyne
A ten-year-old girl registers herself during community birth registration activities in Zambézia, Mozambique.

The situation

The Eastern and Southern Africa region has some of the lowest rates of birth registration in the world. In 2009, only 32 percent of children under the age of five in the region were registered, ranging from 3 percent in Somalia to 83 percent in Comoros.

Ethnic minorities, people living in remote areas, internally displaced persons and children living in refugee camps or conflict zones tend to have the lowest birth registration rates.

In Somalia, Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia, less than 20 percent of all births are registered. In Ethiopia and Tanzania, more than five times as many children are registered in urban areas than in rural areas.


In recent years, considerable progress has been made in increasing access to birth registration for children. Burundi, Malawi and Madagascar have adopted new laws mandating free registration, while Botswana has developed a draft action plan to provide free registration and improve systems. Uganda has increased its budget allocation to birth registration six fold in just two years, thanks to UNICEF advocacy efforts.

In South Africa, the Demographic and Health Survey now includes birth registration as an indicator that is designed to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of access to birth registration.

In Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Eritrea, Tanzania and Kenya, almost 1.7 million children were registered in 2009 alone.

In South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland, UNICEF supports local partners to ensure children have the right documentation to help them access social protection programmes, such as cash grants, food aid, or education bursaries.

Uganda is now moving towards automated registration of births, with support from UNICEF and other partners. In the new system, traditional paper forms are abandoned, and the information is captured and transmitted by mobile phones and then uploaded directly into a government database.



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Related links

What we do: Birth registration

Fast facts on children: Birth registration

Strengthening Birth Registration in Africa: Opportunities and Partnership [PDF]