A photo from the Airbel Impact Lab archive
Sierra Leone

Development of a vital events surveillance system by community health workers using mobile technology

Continued documentation of the limitations of retrospective mortality surveys has increased the focus on prospective surveillance for vital event registration. Most developed countries have national vital events registration systems in place. But these systems, if they exist at all, are highly unreliable in developing countries. Faced with this reality, NGOs and ministries of health have turned to retrospective mortality surveys to collect data, which are not ideal in terms of cost or scientific rigor. Most importantly, retrospective surveys give results only after the time to act has passed. While the IRC has a proven record of conducting mortality surveys, a sustainable, validated vital events surveillance project would be the next logical step to track mortality data. This vital events surveillance project was integrated into a CIDA-funded iCCM program operating in Sierra Leone that aimed to reduce child mortality. CHWs reported all vital events (births and deaths) in their respective villages weekly via mobile phone. Reporting was followed by a supervisor audit to validate data. Program evaluation consisted of village-wide censuses that validated weekly reports against collected census data.