Improving the civil registration of births and deaths in low-income countries

Guidance for the health sector managers, civil registrars and development partners

June 22, 2021

The civil registration of births and deaths represents the legal recognition of a person’s existence, from the start of life until death. It also implies an acknowledgement of the responsibilities of the state towards the individual. The registration of a birth or death, including a stillbirth, within days of its occurrence enables individuals and their families to access essential resources and health care. Yet three in ten births under the age of one and almost half of the world’s deaths go unregistered, and without this legal proof of identity, they are left uncounted and invisible.

The benefits of higher rates of civil registration are not limited to the individual: countries need to know how many people are born and die each year to safeguard individual’s right to establish a legal identity from birth, to be protected from violence and exploitation, to access social services, and inheritance. The availability of granular and complete data is paramount to generate vital statistics for improved local and national planning and monitoring. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the critical importance of vital statistics, specifically on deaths and their causes.

The guidance – jointly developed by UNICEF and WHO – describes the mutual benefits that would accrue to individuals and societies from enhanced collaboration between the health and civil registration systems. It presents some common scenarios in which live births, stillbirths, and deaths occur and outlines key steps that health workers can take to enable them to be registered.

For more information, please watch the explainer video and access the presentations from the webinar on 23 June 2021 Improving civil registration of births and deaths: How can the health sector contribute?

E-course: Leveraging the Health Sector to Strengthen the Civil Registration of Births and Deaths

May 2023
To leverage the existing materials and expertise in the health sector to strengthen the birth and death registrations, UNICEF, WHO and Vital Strategies have developed an e-course, targeted for mid-level managers and policymakers, as well as on-the-ground technical staff.  It helps them to gain a good understanding of the registration process, and enhance and upskill competencies related to birth and death registration. Consisting of three main modules, the five-hour course covers most of the content in this guidance.

Take the e-course