Challenges within a birth registration system

Despite continued efforts by governments, civil society and international organizations around the world, over 290 million children under five do not have a birth certificate (UNICEF 2013). In the past 10 years there has been an overall increase in global birth registration rates of children under five from 58 percent to 65 percent, however more than 100 countries still do not have well-functioning CRVS systems in place to register key life events. (WHO, World Bank Group 2014).   BRiE interventions must therefore be designed to address both preexisting and new emerging challenges as part of a 'build back better' approach.

Plan International has supported over 32 countries to register over 40 million children. Through this process, common system challenges have been identified.  Below is a list of these challenges as reported by Plan International staff currently implementing birth registration and BRiE programs.  

Common challenges

LEGAL & POLICY FRAMEWORK

Standard (& enhanced by Emergencies)

  • Limited or non-existent legal and policy framework to support an effective CRVS system.
  • Discriminatory laws and policies that lead to non-registration of specific, and often vulnerable, groups e.g. single mothers, minority groups etc.

Emergency Specific

  • Affected populations not legally allowed to register e.g. refugee children born in a host country. (Refugee Response)
  • Framework not flexible to allow change of processes and procedures during emergency.
  • Framework does not allow for late registration of refugees and/or asylum seekers; many will not have been registered before they were affected and are then unable to register their birth retrospectively.

INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK

Standard (& enhanced by Emergencies)

  • Lack of coordination between ministries creates silos that result in a replication of effort.
  • Lack of effective governance mechanisms to ensure that CRVS activities are coordinated.

Emergency Specific

  • National disaster management authorities often not included or consulted in CRVS coordination mechanisms.
  • Lack of Regional CRVS frameworks that promote shared government responsibility for registering the births for populations on the move. (Refugee Response)

SUPPLY: SYSTEMS & PROCESSES

Standard (& enhanced by Emergencies)

  • Processes are complex, either deterring people from engaging in them or preventing completion i.e. birth has been notified but no certificate has been collected.
  • Supporting documentation requirements are elaborate and act as a deterrent e.g. requirement for a marriage certificate when these are commonly not applied for, or the applicant is a single mother.
  • Lack of storage capacity, maintenance and reliability, often resulting in no permanent copies of birth records being stored and/or data being used inappropriately.
  • Lack of interoperability & inability to share information between ministries, this leads to replicated effort and mismatching data sets.
  • Limited capacity of registration staff to conduct the process effectively and efficiently.
  • Registration staff unwilling or unable to process applications submitted by single, unmarried, or widowed mothers.

Emergency Specific

  • Mandatory supporting documentation is likely to be lost or destroyed, preventing parents from registering the birth of their child.
  • Mandatory supporting documentation requested does not reflect people’s ability to provide it e.g. a document that is not issued as standard in one country is requested to register a child in another. (Refugee Response)
  • Children and their parents are commonly separated and therefore are unable to fulfil process requirements.
  • Services are often disrupted or unavailable.
  • Responsibilities of registration staff are changed in response to the emergency and birth registration is not prioritised.
  • Registration staff are unwilling or unable to register births as the user cases are different to want they are commonly used to and/or have been trained in.
  • Women and girls cannot safely travel to registration offices to process the application.
  • Birth registration application forms don't match refugee naming conventions (Refugee Response)

DEMAND FOR BIRTH REGISTRATION SERVICES

Standard (& enhanced by Emergencies)

  • Lack of awareness of birth registration, why it is important, and what the process is, if any.
  • Lack of perceived benefits for registering the birth of a child.
  • Direct and indirect costs associated with the registration process incl. travel, loss of earnings, informal charges etc.
  • Informal practices commonly exist which enable discriminatory practices and act as a deterrent.
  • Women and girls well-founded fear of officially recording the father’s name.
  • Fear of having a birth certificate with only the fathers name on it in cases where the father is unwilling or unable to be included on the application.

Emergency Specific

  • Lack of awareness of post-emergency process (if it has changed).
  • Lack of awareness of the importance of birth registration documentation in an emergency situation.
  • Difficulty understanding and navigating hosting government’s birth registration systems. (Refugee Response)
  • Fear of being unable to return home or of persecution for having a “foreign” birth certificate. (Refugee Response)
  • A well-founded fear of officially recording the father’s name, particularly in cases of SGBV and/or when the father is a combatant or from the host community (Refugee Response)

MONITORING & EVALUATION

Standard (& enhanced by Emergencies)

  • Inability or unwillingness to manage performance, resulting in poor service provision, low coverage and low quality of birth registration data.
  • Lack of accountability that leads to poor service provision and corrupt practices.

Emergency Specific

  • No services are monitored.

PRIORITISATION

Standard (& enhanced by Emergencies)

  • Birth registration is not prioritised by governments, this results in poor service provision, low coverage and low quality of birth registration data.

Emergency Specific

  • Birth registration is not prioritised in humanitarian responses, so services are often not available during and for a long-time after an emergency situation.
  • Registering a newborn for refugee status (i.e. in ProGres) is commonly mistaken as birth registration, thus BRiE is not initiated until much later in the response when barriers for children without a birth certificate are identified and documented. (Refugee Response)