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As COVID-19 Underscores Harms of Limited Data, #CountingEveryone Campaign Creates Momentum Toward Change

More than a hundred thousand people engaged in call for everyone, everywhere to be counted

May 3, 2022 (New York)—Everyone should count. Yet millions of people around the globe live without the rights, protections and benefits that a legal identity ensures, and even more die without any official record. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a greater spotlight on the need for accurate and timely mortality data and prompted calls for investments to improve outdated data systems. The #CountingEveryone campaign puts a human face to leadership in critical health data systems, highlighting remarkable and measurable improvements across four countries where leaders have focused on improving health and governance data. It has added newfound momentum toward registering every birth and death, with over 156,000 people engaging with the online campaign in its first six months.

#CountingEveryone elevates the stories of international leaders spearheading efforts to broaden the completeness of civil registration—the recording of births and deaths and conferring  legal identity—and the impact of the resulting vital statistics to inform public policy and action. The end goal: evidence-driven public health intelligence for a more inclusive and healthier world.

“Counting every life is within reach for most governments,” said Martin Bratschi, Technical Director for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics at Vital Strategies. “The #CountingEveryone campaign demonstrates that progress is possible everywhere. The leaders showcased in the campaign have steadily expanded registration services in their countries, resulting in more reliable data on births and deaths for more effective policy development and implementation.”

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for timely and accurate mortality information—a signature of well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems. The information gathered through strong CRVS systems allows governments to more effectively deploy resources in response to public health or other emergencies, and provides insights into population health and needs not available from any other source. For example, data on births pave the way for social services planning, and death and cause of death data make it possible to identify and address the leading causes of illness and mortality in a population. For individuals, having access to vital events records is crucial to unlocking social benefits such as education, health care and the right to vote.

“We cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without counting everyone, because everyone counts,” said Samira Asma, Assistant Director-General, Division of Data, Analytics and Delivery for Impact at the World Health Organization. “That means learning from countries like Rwanda, Bangladesh, Colombia and Viet Nam which have demonstrated that #CountingEveryone is possible. By removing barriers to registration, task sharing, and using innovative digital solutions, we can quickly scale these learnings to every country. We call on all governments and policy makers to commit to closing this longstanding gap. After all, complete CRVS is a benchmark of good governance.”

The Bangladesh government views civil registration and vital statistics as the foundation of rights, protections, entitlements and services from cradle to grave. Mustakim Billah Faruqui, former Registrar General of Birth and Death Registration in Bangladesh, added: “CRVS is a right, and the foundation of rights.”

To date, over 156,000 people from 88 countries have engaged with #CountingEveryone on social media or by visiting its webpage, underscoring the public demand that no one is left invisible. The #CountingEveryone campaign calls attention to exceptional work in four countries—to inspire those in positions of leadership and authority across the globe to champion the improvement of civil registration and vital statistics systems for the benefit of all.

  • Bangladesh is removing barriers to CRVS by empowering community-level workers to help families register births and deaths. In five years, the country saw birth registration increased from an estimated 5% in 2016, to now 37% of all births are registered within a year of occurrence.
  • Rwanda, with its 2020 Births and Death Act, dramatically expanded the number of civil registration points from 400 to more than 2,500. Bringing registration services closer to the population has removed significant barriers to access, resulting in an 11% increase in the proportion of deaths registered from 2018 to 2020.
  • Colombia has created one of the most complete CRVS systems in Latin America through the forward-looking adoption of new strategies and technologies. The use of text messaging and digitized cause-of-death investigations has allowed the government to see, for the first time, life and death experiences in previously unseen rural communities.
  • Viet Nam’s National Action Programme on CRVS paved the way for greater coordination among stakeholders and decentralized vital events registration. The country now has a reported birth registration rate of 98% and strives to reach 80% medical certification of causes of death of all fatalities by 2024.

“Strong health information frameworks are the backbone of public health,” said Jennifer Ellis, who directs the Data for Health Initiative at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “A full set of birth and death data translates into actionable changes by governments to improve the health of their communities. It’s also relevant for individuals, as civil registration opens the door to so many basic rights and public services. It’s exciting to see the #CountingEveryone campaign tell this full story.”

The #CountingEveryone campaign is a yearlong initiative of the global public health organization Vital Strategies and its partners in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative—including CDC Foundation, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Viet Nam, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

To build a more inclusive and healthier world, it’s time to start #CountingEveryone. To learn more about the campaign, visit: https://www.vitalstrategies.org/countingeveryone/

The Data for Health Initiative is a global effort supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies with additional support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It provides technical assistance and grants to governments in low- and middle-income countries worldwide to improve public health data systems including civil registration and vital statistics systems; cancer registries; and data-driven policymaking and decision-making processes. Vital Strategies serves as an implementing partner.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.

To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

Media Contacts:

Kristi Saporito, Vital Strategies ksaporito@vitalstrategies.org

Ally Davis, Vital Strategies adavis@vitalstrategies.org