Tanga and Kilimanjaro regions today launched the implementation of the decentralized birth registration system. In the next two months, more than 580,000 under-five children, in the two regions, are expected to receive a birth certificate. With this, the number of regions that have already introduced the new birth registration system reaches 18.
The launch, held at Moshi MC, was attended by the Hon.Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Mwigulu Lameck Nchemba, and other guests. The goal of the programme is to establish a system for registering all new births and register all under-five children in the two regions.
The programme makes birth registration more accessible to the community. Where before registration could only take place at the district headquarter town, now registration points are established at health facilities, which provide reproductive and child health services, and at the community ward executive offices in line with the government policy of decentralization through devolution. Declaring health facilities and ward executive offices registration points will enable parents in these two regions to easily access more than 1,070 registration points set up compared to 13 registration points at present.
Emmy Hudson, Acting Administrator General and Chief Executive Officer of the Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA), responsible for the programme, says, “The new decentralised system significantly accelerates birth registration in Tanzania Mainland, after years of stagnation. The system makes it easier for children and their families to access the entitlement of a birth certificate. Now parents can receive birth certificates from the designated health facilities or through the ward executive offices. We are committed to ensuring that no child is left behind and, therefore, have taken extra steps focusing more on gender and equity to leave no one behind”. She concluded by acknowledging the contribution of UNICEF, the Government of Canada and Tigo for their support to the birth registration system in the country.
The programme also introduces a ‘one step, one visit’ process and adopts an innovative way of data collection. The Government has waived fees for registration under this programme and the first copy of the certificate is given free of charge. Through the use of SMS, data is instantly transferred and uploaded, facilitating a real-time tracking of progress.
The Government is implementing this programme since 2013 in partnership with UNICEF, Tigo and funding from the Canadian Government. Today this initiative is being rolled out in Tanga and Kilimanjaro, joining Ruvuma, Morogoro, Pwani, Singida, Dodoma, Mara, Simiyu, Lindi, Mtwara, Geita, Shinyanga, Mbeya, Songwe, Mwanza, Iringa and Njombe which have already been covered and thereby reaching more than 4.6 million under-five children. The new system has resulted in an overall increase of certification of under-fives in these regions from less than 10 per cent to more than 80 per cent. The system has also helped in improving the certification rate for Tanzania Mainland from less than 13 per cent to more than 50 per cent in over seven years.
Right from the inception of the design of the innovative birth registration system, UNICEF has been working closely with the Government in implementing it seamlessly one region at a time with the aim of covering the entire country.
UNICEF Acting Representative in Tanzania, Rene Van Dongen, said that birth registration will help more children in the country to claim their rights and be protected. “Every child has the right to an identity. A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The right to be registered immediately after birth, to have a name and acquire a nationality is every child’s right, enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child(CRC). The simplified birth registration programme is ensuring that millions of children under-five who are “invisible” in the nation's records, will now be ‘visible’”.
The funding for the programme, received from Canada, has facilitated the Government of Tanzania to establish a sustainable model of birth registration aimed at reaching more than 4.6 million girls and boys under the age of five in 18 regions. The funding is contributing significantly to the development of an efficient Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System in the country.
Gwen Walmsley, Minister-Counsellor and Senior Director (Development), High Commission of Canada in Tanzania said, “Canada is a proud supporter of Tanzania’s under five birth strategy and has provided CAD$ 30.6 million for its implementation in 26 regions in mainland Tanzania. For every child, a birth certificate not only provides identity but also access to essential services. It is a child’s link to education and health care. Providing boys, but especially girls, with legal armour is crucial to protecting them against child trafficking, child labour and early marriage”.
Tigo is supporting the initiative through innovative mobile technology, which ensures that birth registration data is uploaded and sent to a central database in real time. In addition, Tigo is also providing 1,350 smartphones, worth TZS 169 million, and free SMS to support the initiative. Speaking at the launch ceremony, Tigo’s Northern Zone Territory Manager, Daniel Mainoya said, “Our decision to support this initiative underscores our commitment to build a strong societal ecosystem that brings the promise of technology in communities where we operate. With this innovation, Tigo is making positive and significant contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. Additionally, this partnership showcases the role mobile service providers can play in addressing a pressing social need through application of their technology and expertise.”
Birth registration is critical since children’s access to all social services stem from birth certification. Moreover, for adults to acquire other forms of identification such as Voters ID, Driver’s license, Passport and National ID, to mention a few, requires birth certificate. Today, SIM card registration cannot be performed without the National ID.
The new birth registration system has bridged the rural-urban divide, improving access to the most marginalized communities to register their children, and continues to tackle gender-related barriers relating to birth registration. It addresses the core issues of ‘accessibility’ and ‘affordability’ which has been a major barrier in the birth registration system in Tanzania.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNICEF Tanzania.