Vital Registration in Rural Africa: Is There a Way Forward to Report on Health Targets of the Millennium Development Goals?
Mandere, B C
Harries, A D
AffiliationMédecins Sans Frontières, Medical Department (Operational Research), Brussels Operational Center, Luxembourg; Ministry of Healthand Population, Thyolo district Health services, Thyolo, Malawi; Médecins Sans Frontières, Thyolo District, Thyolo, Malawi; District Health Assembly, District Commissioner, Thyolo district, Malawi; District Health Assembly, District Commissioners Office, (Monitoring and Evaluation Unit), Thyolo district, Malawi; Maternal and Child health services, Médecins sans Frontieres, Brussels Operational Centre, Belgium; International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Paris, France; International Training and Education centre, Seattle WA, USA; London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
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AbstractVital 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.