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Glob Health Action. 2016 Oct 24;9:32795. doi: 10.3402/gha.v9.32795. eCollection 2016.

Completeness of birth and death registration in a rural area of South Africa: the Agincourt health and demographic surveillance, 1992-2014.

Author information

MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, UMI Résiliences, Bondy, France.
Institut Pasteur, Epidémiologie des Maladies Emergentes, Paris, France.
FERDI, Université d'Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France;
INDEPTH Network, Accra, Ghana.
Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Division of Epidemiology and Global Health, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.



Completeness of vital registration remains very low in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in rural areas.


To investigate trends and factors in completeness of birth and death registration in Agincourt, a rural area of South Africa covering a population of about 110,000 persons, under demographic surveillance since 1992. The population belongs to the Shangaan ethnic group and hosts a sizeable community of Mozambican refugees.


Statistical analysis of birth and death registration over time in a 22-year perspective (1992-2014). Over this period, major efforts were made by the government of South Africa to improve vital registration. Factors associated with completeness of registration were investigated using univariate and multivariate analysis.


Birth registration was very incomplete at onset (7.8% in 1992) and reached high values at end point (90.5% in 2014). Likewise, death registration was low at onset (51.4% in 1992), also reaching high values at end point (97.1% in 2014). For births, the main factors were mother's age (much lower completeness among births to adolescent mothers), refugee status, and household wealth. For deaths, the major factors were age at death (lower completeness among under-five children), refugee status, and household wealth. Completeness increased for all demographic and socioeconomic categories studied and is likely to approach 100% in the future if trends continue at this speed.


Reaching high values in the completeness of birth and death registration was achieved by excellent organization of the civil registration and vital statistics, a variety of financial incentives, strong involvement of health personnel, and wide-scale information and advocacy campaigns by the South African government.


Agincourt; Mozambican refugee; South Africa; completeness of vital registration; demographic surveillance system; household wealth; level of education; socioeconomic factors

Conflict of interest statement

and funding The authors have not received any funding or benefits from industry or elsewhere to conduct this study.

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