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A girl from Thailand showing off her ID card that she received following her birth registration

Birth registration

Globally, an estimated 1 billion people cannot officially prove their identity and 47% of those are children without a birth certificate.

For people to count, they must first be counted. This is the role of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems which record the details of all major life events, such as births and deaths. Despite this, over 100 countries around the world do not have functioning CRVS systems.

Why is birth registration important?

Once a birth is registered, the birth certificate is the legal document that establishes an individual’s existence in the eyes of the law. It means children can go to school, get medical treatment, get a job when they grow up and more. 

Without it, a child is invisible to their government and may be vulnerable to many forms of abuse and neglect such as child marriage, child labour and trafficking.

If we don’t know who and where the most marginalised children are, it is very difficult to support them to improve their lives.

"Without a birth certificate you have no proof to show who you are"

In Eastern Visayas in the Philippines, 25% of people do not have a birth certificate. But we’re working with local authorities to get children registered so they are able to exercise their rights.

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Making all children visible

To ensure all children are included in society we need to improve the state of civil registration systems around the world and record the birth of every child.

Since 2005, through our Count Every Child initiative, we have helped register 40 million children and influenced laws in 10 countries so 153 million more can enjoy the right to a birth certificate.

We work with governments, UN agencies and the private sector to improve civil registration services using appropriate technology.

We also raise awareness in communities about the importance of getting children’s births registered and support the training of people involved in the process.

The case for universal birth registration

What steps do we need to take to ensure the world's most vulnerable children are not invisible to their governments? Plan International's Ed Duffus argues that innovation is the solution.

Read the blog

Innovation and digitisation essential for progress

Despite continued efforts, over 290 million children under 5 do not have a birth certificate. New approaches are required to overcome current challenges and make the significant improvements required to achieve universal birth registration. 

Recently we produced a report alongside Accenture that provides guidelines and activities to help define solutions to the most challenging contexts. We believe that new solutions will increase registration rates and extend registration to the most marginalised.

Technology has the potential to transform birth registration because it can: 

  • Increase the reach of CRVS systems, even to the most remote communities
  • make processes easier for those who need and provide them 
  • work with other systems to support efficient service delivery 
  • store and make data available to decision-makers. 

Read the report: Innovations in Birth Registration

OpenCRVS

Through our experience of running digital birth registration programmes, we have identified several common problems that countries with few resources experience. These common problems demand a common solution. 

In response, Plan International and partners are building an open-source digital CRVS system that works in every country and for every individual. OpenCRVS will be free and adaptable for different country contexts, designed with and for the people it serves. 

To create OpenCRVS we have partnered with registration authorities, leading health system providers, software developers and communities to design and build a global digital product that will serve the needs of end users and those being registered.

To get involved and discuss opportunities, contact Annina Wersun, OpenCRVS Product Owner

Learn more about OpenCRVS