OBJECTIVE: Improving civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems is essential to monitoring health objectives locally and globally. The barriers to birth and particularly death registration in low- and middle-income countries are however poorly understood.
METHODS: We conducted a survey among women of reproductive age in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau. We asked women with a birth in the past two years whether their child had been registered and had obtained a birth certificate. We elicited the sources of information about birth registration and asked respondents to list their reasons for (not) registering a birth. If their child had died, we asked similar questions about death registration.
RESULTS: Most women (86%) had received messages about birth registration, but few women whose child had died had heard about the need to register deaths (22%). The primary sources of information about birth registration were messages broadcast on the radio or displayed at health facilities. Information about death registration was primarily obtained through informal social networks. Only 16% of births, and 2% of deaths, had been registered. The main barriers to birth registration were administrative pre-requisites and paternal absence. The main reasons for not registering a death were lack of knowledge about death registration and lack of perceived benefits.
CONCLUSION: Strengthening CRVS systems requires addressing the specific barriers preventing birth and death registration. In Bissau, interventions to improve knowledge about death registration are needed. Simplifying registration procedures, as well as providing additional incentives, might help improve the coverage of birth registration.