Recording births and deaths in Africa: keys for success
27 January 2011
African states have begun work on a regional plan of action for civil registration and vital events and have agreed on core underlying principles to ensure progress in this area.
They gathered at a conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 17-21 January 2011. The meeting was organized by the Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission. It followed the Declaration of African ministers responsible for civil registration (August 2010) which called for a regional plan of action for civil registration and vital statistics.
In working to elaborate the regional plan of action, meeting participants agreed on three underlying principles to guide their work. First, national ownership and coordination are imperative. Second, support to civil registration and vital statistics systems should be aligned with broader efforts to strengthen national statistical and health information systems. Third, it is essential to support long-term capacity building.
The importance of cross-sectoral collaboration between stakeholders was emphasized throughout the meeting. "As both user and producer of vital statistics, the health sector has much to contribute. Health care workers at community level can play an important role as first contact points for counting births and deaths," said Mr Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General of South Africa and Member, HMN Executive Board.
HMN shared with participants, including young African statisticians, the renewed initiative on monitoring of vital events (MOVE-IT) and using innovation to strengthen current systems, including, for example, mobile phones.
The MOVE-IT strategy will support the development of tools to facilitate birth and death recording, including the use of verbal autopsy (interviews with family members of a deceased person) to generate improved data on causes of death that can help guide public health decision-making. The HMN initiative will also assemble and share country experiences and thus contribute to a stronger evidence base of what works ― and what does not ― to support progress in this long neglected area.
HMN will continue to play an active role in the further development of the regional strategy and work with its partners to contribute to the growing political momentum for civil registration and vital statistics in the African region.
Conference participants included representatives of civil registration authorities, national statistics offices, ministries of justice and local government.