News / Africa

Kenya Works to Make Birth Registration Easier

Benedetta Kamene, Volunteer Children's Officer, reviews a stack of newly-issued birth certificates at the Kimadzo community-based organization, Kwale, Kenya, July 25, 2012. (VOA/Jill Craig)
Benedetta Kamene, Volunteer Children's Officer, reviews a stack of newly-issued birth certificates at the Kimadzo community-based organization, Kwale, Kenya, July 25, 2012. (VOA/Jill Craig)
Jill Craig
NAIROBI — The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, says that worldwide, about 51,000,000 children per year are not registered at birth. A birth certificate provides state recognition of that child's existence. Without it, the child is often denied education and health benefits, as well as basic human rights. In Kenya, PLAN International and the World Health Organization are working with the government to register children by way of mobile phone technology.

Birth registration

PLAN International says only about half of children born in Kenya have birth certificates. Without this document, children cannot register for national exams, which are mandatory for admittance to secondary school and university. And if orphaned, they can be denied rightful property inheritance.
Salim Mvurya is the Program Unit Manager for PLAN Kenya, in the coastal district of Kwale. He says birth registration is critical for children. “It is important to have birth certificates for child protection reasons, education reasons, inheritance reasons, and also those who travel abroad, you know, for different reasons, they also have to have [a] birth certificate for them to get a passport,” he said.

Registration process

But registering for a birth certificate is not so simple, especially in the more remote areas of the country.

Within the first six months of a child’s birth, a community worker and assistant chief start the paper-based process for registering a child. The certificate, costing about 60 cents, must then be retrieved from the district civil registrar’s office.

If the child is registered after six months of birth, the process becomes more tedious. The parent must travel to see the assistant chief, the area chief, the district officer, the district commissioner, and finally, the district civil registrar. At each one of these stops, forms must be filled out. The cost of this late registration certificate is about $1.80.

But it is the cost of transport and time away from work that is the real problem. Benedetta Kamene is a volunteer children’s officer for the community-based organization Kimadzo, in Kwale. She says that the cost of round-trip transport from her office to the district registrar, 100 kilometers away, is about $11.90 -- a steep sum for most residents of this area.

“Then you’ll have to go there, and pay for that certificate, then come back. So you’ll find that, they are not all that expensive, but the transport makes them sound quite expensive,” Kamene stated.

Streamlining registration

To help alleviate these problems, PLAN International and the World Health Organization developed pilot programs in Kwale and Naivasha to use mobile phone technology to register babies.

After the birth, community workers and assistant chiefs work together to collect information on their mobile phones, and send it to the appropriate officials.

Ali Mwatsahu is a community worker with Kimadzo. He says that the mobile phone registration process made his job much easier. “With this mobile thing, the only thing that you do, after you have got all that information, you just send it directly to Kwale, you don’t have to travel, and you can send as many forms as possible within a short time," Mwatsahu added. "So when the certificates are ready there, they contact us, we go and pick the certificates. The parents do not have to travel to and fro, all the time, looking for something which is not ready.”

Daniel Muga is a Chief Registrar at the Kenya Department of Civil Registration. He says the Kenyan government is interested in utilizing the strong mobile capabilities within the country to streamline this process.

“Mobile use is widespread all the way to the remote parts of the country. In essence, every other person owns a mobile phone, is able to use a mobile phone to run very basic transactions, to communicate. So that becomes a leverage for any process that involves the community,” Muga said.

Mobile civil registration

Muga says he is hopeful that mobile civil registration will soon become fully-implemented throughout the country, which can then be incorporated into the civil registration system. He admits that one hold-up has been the fact that although a computerized civil registration system is now in place, the records are not digitized. He says this is about to change.

“In other words, within a period, of say, nine months, we expect that all our records which number in the range of 35 million records, that all these records will actually be converted," Muga said. "And will be stored in a digitized format.”

PLAN issued between 400 and 500 birth certificates last year in Kwale through the mobile phone project. The WHO project in Naivasha is still in its beginning stages.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Patriot556 from: NW
August 16, 2012 6:16 PM
This new upgrade in birth registration process must be coming from the fact that they cannot claim an american president as a national hero in Kenya. Seems that the paperwork is all screwed up, so they needed an upgrade so the next time they have a national go to america to become president, they can claim him as a hero.

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs