• Vital Registration in Rural Africa: Is There a Way Forward to Report on Health Targets of the Millennium Development Goals?

      Zachariah, R; Mwagomba, B; Misinde, D; Mandere, B C; Bemeyani, A; Ginindza, T; Cortier, H; Bissel, K; Jahn, A; Harries, A D; et al. (2011-04-19)
      Vital registration - the systematic recording of births and deaths - has both legal and health significance. In particular, accurate recording and reporting of vital statistics are public goods to enable the monitoring of progress towards achieving health related targets of the 2015 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The reality in Africa is that most births and deaths cannot be traced in legal records or official statistics and as such, there is currently no way of assessing progress towards achieving MDG targets and this applies particularly to rural settings in Africa. From the context of a rural district in Malawi, we describe an informal traditional system for the reporting of deaths at village level, and discuss the potential opportunities, challenges and ways forward in the wider implementation and interpretation of vital data generated by such a system. Such a system might provide an interim solution for accelerating the production and use of district level vital statistics for legal, administrative, statistical purposes and to report on the MDG in rural Africa while waiting for more comprehensive national systems to become a reality.