NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 30, 2007

Most people in Africa and Asia are born and die without leaving a trace in any official records, giving policymakers and researchers little information on which to base public health decisions, says Dr. Philip Setel, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher.

According to Setel:

  • Over the past 30 years there has been a persistent failure to establish, support and sustain civil registries and to ensure that causes of death are accurately known in the world's poorest countries.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa fewer than 10 countries have routine vital statistics systems that produce usable data, and mortality data is reported from only four.
  • Reliable data on levels of adult death -- let alone causes of death -- simply do not exist for most countries in Africa and Asia, where a large majority of deaths occur at home.

As a result, international donors, including the United States, spent more than $80 billion in 2004 on overseas medical aid, yet there is no conclusive evidence that this money is making a difference in preventing deaths, including those from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Until civil registration systems can be rebuilt, Setel said, other cost-effective interim measures must be taken.

Source: "Scandal of Invisibility Plagues Countries with No Civil Registries,", October 29, 2007; based upon: "Scandal of Invisibility: Making Everyone Count by Counting Everyone," Lancet, October 29, 2007.


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