Invisible millions never recorded

The world has a huge population of ‘unseen’ inhabitants who pass through life anonymously because their births and deaths are never recorded.

Medical journal The Lancet has published a study called Who Counts? which examines the global non-reporting of births and deaths. This is particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The Lancet says the existence of millions of people is never registered.
One effect of this is that the consequences money and programmes in development cannot be judged, because nobody knows statistics on the people the aid is supposed to help.

Philip Setel from the University of North Carolina, who wrote the first paper in the Who Counts? series, found that development assistance across the world was worth $80 billion in 2004. But the lack of official head counts means there is ‘little authoritative evidence that these funds have their desired effects on either mortality or poverty reduction’.

Setel also warns that data registration can hold dangers and mentions the use of identity cards in Rwanda, during the 1990s genocide, and the use of Dutch population registers by the Nazis.

Western countries such as Britain, the US, Iceland, and Latin American countries Venezuela and Chile had 90-100% recording of births and deaths, the study found.

Countries which provide no such data at all include North Korea, Andorra, East Timor and many African countries.

Who Counts is part of an ongoing study called the Scandal of Invisibility.

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