Over thirty years have passed since The State of the World’s Children began to publish tables of standardized global and national statistics aimed at providing a detailed picture of children’s circumstances.

The publication underlined that health “data has made it possible to save and improve the lives of millions of children, especially the most deprived.”

But, greater effort and innovation to identify and address the gaps that prevent the most of the world’s children from enjoying the benefits of improving life outcomes through robust use of health data metrics.

Tessa Wardlaw, Chief of UNICEF’s Analytics Section, said that data “is a particularly important topic because many countries do not have well-functioning vital registration systems, well-functioning routine reporting systems that will allow us to capture this data in a way that is consistent between countries and over time to allow us to make an analysis of trends”; adding that people “have no idea what it takes to produce those numbers.”

Wardlaw continued, “We are trying to tell the world that a tremendous effort goes into actually insuring that these are highly credible, high quality data, but that is a very challenging task—at country level—to collect this data in a form that is reliable, particularly in the settings that we work in.”

She added that the agency wants to make sure governments use such data to improve the situation of children and women around the world, including respective insights into policy planning and execution to support the most vulnerable populations in the world. Being counted makes children visible, and this act of fundamental recognition of their existence makes it possible to address their needs and advance their rights in subsequent steps.

Innovations in data collection, analysis and dissemination are making it more and more possible to disaggregate data by such factors as location, wealth, sex, and ethnic or disability status, to include children who have been excluded or overlooked by broad averages. Technology adoption and concise effort to collect the information is now the gating factor.

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