It is the right of every mother and child, everywhere, to be counted.
Every year, around the world, how many children die unseen, invisible, unregistered and unable to access the kind of health services that could save their lives? The reality is we don’t know. The most educated guesses put the number of invisible and unreached people at between 250 and 500 million in developing countries. How many of these are children? We should not have to guess. We should know where they are and how to reach them with health interventions.
We are not currently counting the most vulnerable children because there are significant gaps in the type of health information collected by countries. Only 20 per cent of countries have strong health information systems that count all births and deaths and track causes of death, alongside major household surveys. These are mostly more developed countries. Yet that is not where the majority of child deaths occur.
It is the right of every mother and child, everywhere, to be counted and included in government provision of services. When everyone is counted, governments and donors can more confidently invest in policies and programmes that target and reach the most vulnerable communities. We know that this will save more lives.
What we know for sure is that many child deaths and illnesses never reach a health facility and frequently go unreported. This makes expanding the reach of current information systems and investing in the collection of information at the community level, by communities, critical. World Vision works with communities to enable them to improve the well-being of their children. Key to this work is measuring, tracking and reaching the most vulnerable, often the invisible or unseen, children.
We need to see global-level endorsement of approaches that put real people – families and communities – at the front and centre of efforts to count and reach the most vulnerable children in the most need. We need political champions willing to stand up for those children furthest from health centres and people’s minds and put them at the forefront of the next development agenda.
Every child has the right to be counted; the invisible deserve to be given visibility; and the most vulnerable children deserve to be given the opportunity to survive to fulfil their potential.