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Registering and monitoring the health of children in Zambia

Each year, the births of around 40 million children across the globe go unregistered, representing around two-thirds of the world’s total.

This is because three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants live in countries where there are either poor or no civil registration systems, mostly in Asia or Africa.

With no official record of their name, family, date or place of birth, children are left vulnerable, particularly in countries where illegal trafficking and child marriages are of real concern. The lack of registration also makes it much harder to monitor the health of children generally and provide effective healthcare services. Speaking to IRIN, a global health care expert explains “if children are not registered when they are born, they do not exist...[and in some countries] are not eligible for immunisation or for going to school.”

The lack of civil registration is not the only problem. Many countries do not have systems which record deaths or cause of death or systems which provide any kind of significant and useful health data. Without being able to track this information, it’s hard to assess whether progress is being made through development and health programmes. With only a few years to go before the Millenium Development Goals expire, many countries are realising how hard it is to assess goals and targets when information systems are not equipped to log the necessary data.

Though data tracking systems are often poor in low-income nations, some countries have been making a significant effort to put information systems in place. In Zambia, for example, health facilities provide reports and information, which is gathered at a district, provincial and national level. Nationally, Zambia uses 16 core indicators to guide its health monitoring and strategy planning.

Zambia also conducts household surveys to provide additional information. For example, over the past five years, surveys have been used to collect data on malaria and the use of bednets. These national malaria indicator surveys helped document the coverage of intervention methods and levels of the malaria parasite in the population in 2006, 2008 and 2010. This information could then be compared with data on malaria admissions and deaths provided by health facilities and confirm trends in the reduction of cases and fatalities. Such information is vital if health services are to be improved and better targeted, helping to save the lives of more children in the future.

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