Registering births and deaths : The Job that No One Wants
29 OCTOBER 2007 - BEIJING/GENEVA -- The Health Metrics Network launches a drive today to encourage countries to count all births and deaths through civil registration.
The Health Metrics Network is a global partnership – hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) – established to address the lack of reliable health information in developing countries.
As part of this drive, the Health Metrics Network is releasing a Monitoring vital events resource kit CD-ROM.
This kit contains the tools and reference texts that countries can use to guide them in their work towards full civil registration.
“…..Civil registration is the way by which countries keep track of births, deaths and marital status of their people. These systems are the best way to produce vital statistics – counts of births and deaths and causes of death. Such statistics are needed to show whether health programmes are working. They are also essential to assess whether development aid is well spent.
The lack of civil registration systems means that every year, almost 40% (48 million) of 128 million global births go unregistered. The situation is even worse for death registration. Globally, two-thirds (38 million) of 57 million annual deaths are not registered. WHO receives reliable cause-of-death statistics from only 31 of its 193 Member States.
The absence of civil registration has other implications. When children's births are not registered they are less likely to benefit from basic human rights – social, political, civic or economic.
At the other end of the lifespan, when deaths go uncounted and causes of death are not documented, governments are unable to design effective health policies, measure their impact or know whether health budgets are being well-spent.
"No single UN agency is responsible for ensuring that births and deaths are registered, so it has fallen between the cracks. That is why we have failed to establish, support, and sustain civil registration systems over the past 30 years in the developing world," WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said today at the Global Forum for Health Research in
For further information, please contact:
Carla Abouzahr, Deputy Executive Secretary, Health Metrics Network, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Professsor Alan Lopez, Head,
Professor Kenneth Hill, Associate Director, Harvard Centre for Population and Development Studies, E-mail: email@example.com
Dr Prasanta Mahapatra, Director,
Dr Laragh Gollogly, Editor, WHO Press,
The Lancet: Who Counts? Series at: http://www.thelancet.com/online/focus/who-counts/collection
Who Counts? - A test of our humanity
In the Comment which opens the Series, The Lancet's editor Dr Richard Horton says: "This 'scandal of invisibility' means that millions of human beings are born and die without leaving any record of their existence. Over three-quarters of them are to be found in sub-Saharan Africa and
A scandal of invisibility: making everyone count by counting everyone
Most people in Africa and
Vital statistics: not vital enough
The need for reliable national statistics for births, deaths, and causes of death has never been greater - but countries and developmental partners have not recognised this as a priority. Authors of the second paper look at inconsistency the lack of data from sub-Saharan
Interim measures to obtain vital data for developing countries
Most developing countries do not have fully functional civil registration systems (FFCRS). They have instead had to use interim measures to obtain vital data. These methods, though effective in the short term, should not be regarded as substitutes for complete civil registration, and international organisations, governments and academia all have responsibilities to ensure that civil registration systems are improved. The authors of the third paper conclude that international agencies should maintain their support for coordinated data collection and sharing activities and for specialised training, while increasing efforts to achieve a FFCRS.
The way forward for vital statistics
There is no single blueprint for establishing and maintaining systems for gathering sound statistics on births, deaths, and causes of death, as each country has its own unique set of challenges. But whatever the individual country's situation, there are steps that can be taken. The authors of the final paper propose three options, which are not mutually exclusive, to tackle the challenge of establishing civil registration systems and obtaining and maintaining vital statistics.
Countries need to invest long-term in civil registration
Civil registration is a long-term investment, and countries first need to get the right legislation in place, making it a requirement to register births and deaths. This Comment which accompanies the Who Counts? Series concludes that the health sector is best placed to promote the benefits of civil registration for all sectors of society, and to lead intersectoral collaboration in establishing routine mechanisms for gathering population and health data. These measures permit the health sector to function, and provide evidence for evaluating global efforts to accelerate health development ..”
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