The Tanzanian Registration Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA) in collaboration with local mobile phone operator, Tigo, has developed and deployed a new mHealth solution, called mBirth, to register births in the sub-Saharan country.

A large majority of children in rural Tanzania aren’t registered with civil authorities due to high costs, long distances to registry offices, and a lack of awareness of the benefits. According to the 2010 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey, only 16% of children under the age of five are registered with civil authorities.

Lack of a birth certificate not only makes it harder for children to access basic human rights such as healthcare and education, but it also puts them at a higher risk of being victims of early marriage, child labour, trafficking and recruitment into the armed forces.

“We have embarked on this initiative to speed up birth registration, especially of newborn babies, to ensure that each baby is captured and registered closest to home,” said RITA’s Acting Head, Emmy Hudson.

Through the mBirth platform health workers can send the baby’s name, sex, date of birth and family details through a basic mobile phone to a central database. The system doesn’t require an internet connection and through the electronic system birth certificates can be issued on the same day.

Prior to mBirth parents had to pay 3,500 Tanzanian shillings ($1.60) if they request a birth certificate within 90 days of a child’s birth, or 4,000 shillings after that, as well as travel costs. Now children who are under five years old can be registered for free.

According to Hudson, since September 2016 more than 200,000 children under five have been registered and issued with birth certificates in Njombe and Iringa regions in Tanzania’s southern highlands. This number equates to more than 90% of the age group, which before the mBirth rollout was at only 8.5 and 11.7%

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