New survey to track trends in newborn deaths

A new survey that will, among other things, provide crucial data needed to identify the trends of neonatal mortality, was unveiled on Wednesday.

The survey, to be implemented by the Bureau of Statistics with support from the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and others, is among several that will inform Guyana’s final report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It follows up on similar surveys done in 2000 and 2006.

The new data collection campaign of the Multi Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS)-which is said to fill crucial data gaps in the welfare of children- is a household survey developed by UNICEF in response to the 1990 World Summit for Children, to measure progress towards an internationally agreed set of goals for children.

Guyana participated in the 2000 and 2006 rounds of the MICS which allowed policymakers to have increased access to disaggregated data for the development of equity based national policies and legislation in fulfilment of Guyana’s child rights obligations. Data generated from this round of MICS along with other nationally representative household surveys, will inform the MDGs final report.

The survey is now structured to offer more information than before about men, women, children, adolescents and young people, thereby making it one of the few surveys of its kind to capture such in-depth disaggregated data on these groups.

Speaking at the launch of the survey, which was done at the MICS Office, Nurses Annex, Fort Street, Kingston, UNICEF representative for Guyana and Suriname, Marianne Flach, noted that while Guyana has achieved or is well on course to achieving several of the MDGs, others are proving to be more elusive and costly to attain. Among these, she said, is the goal of reducing infant and maternal mortality. While progress has been made in reducing mortality for children under five years through better vaccination coverage and management of childhood illness, neonatal mortality remains a critical issue.

“Too many children still die from preventable causes within the first month of life. MICS can provide us with the data we need to identify these trends and plan effectively to address them,” Flach said. She described the MICS as an important monitoring tool for assessing the wellbeing of children, women and their families as it collects data for over 20 of the 40 MDG indicators. It is the largest international household survey to collect information on so many MDG indicators in such a short period.

According to the UNICEF representative, for Guyana to continue to make progress as a lower-middle income country, sound information on child rights indicators is crucial to formulate and revise national and sub-national policies, and to monitor to ensure the country progresses towards the achievement of the MDGs and other global commitments aimed at promoting the welfare of children. “Gaps in data often impede Guyana’s efforts to formulate effective policies and programmes, and can present a challenge when channelling the country’s limited resources to those most in need. Guyana is poised to address the current data gaps through MICS 5,” Flach stated.

She pointed out that for children, this means they will better be able to identify the critical areas which need to be addressed and ensure that they are protected, have better access to quality healthcare and education, and make better life choices so that they will have a sustainable future as they grow into adults.

The UNICEF rep disclosed that the survey done in 2000 provided Guyana with a baseline for measuring progress, and data collected in 2006 allowed for measurement of the improvements up to that point. MICS 5, she said, is an excellent opportunity to take stock of how far the country has progressed since then and identify priority areas for action through the collection of data.

Data generated from MICS (and other nationally representative household surveys) will be critically important, especially for the United Nations Secretary General’s Final MDG ‘Progress’ Report which will be launched in September 2015.

Flach further said that the upcoming MICS will provide an opportunity for the inclusion of new indicators such as those on life satisfaction and subjective well-being, alcohol and tobacco use, men’s health, chronic diseases and access to media and technologies.

The data collection process is expected to be completed by August 2014 but Flach said there must be sustained commitment and traction to ensure the greatest returns for efforts and the most efficient use of the available resources. She said that each team member must have a clear sense of the mission and this must be a shared priority. Further, based on the tight timelines, Flach said, it is critical that all possible delays are avoided.

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