CHURCHES and government are looking at how they can work together to make it easier for families to register the deaths of their loved ones, in a joint effort with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Representatives from the member churches of the Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) met with officials from the two ministries on Thursday (August 1) to discuss how to improve the number of deaths that are notified to local health facilities.
The workshop is part of a wider effort to strengthen the birth and death registration system in the country, supported by the World Health Organization and the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative/the University of Melbourne.
It’s estimated that only half of all deaths are officially recorded. Families need to report the death of a loved one to a nurse so that it can be registered, and the cause of death investigated. The information can then be passed on to the government to provide more health support where it is needed. While any person may report a death, churches are in almost every village and officiate at almost all burials, so they are also well placed to record the death and to pass on information to the health center.
Participants agreed to investigate the idea further to bring about positive change in communities which may currently be overlooked in the statistics.
“It’s about both improving our services in the community, but also helping communities address their own health issues to prevent diseases,” Dr. Nemia Bainivalu, Undersecretary for Health Improvement, MHMS, said.
“With more information about the numbers and causes of deaths, we can undertake better health planning and improve health services. For example, if we have outbreaks of malaria or dengue or other diseases, and we capture this information, we can work out how to respond to address these problems quickly. We want to build strong partnerships with the community, so we can make our services stronger.”
The workshop agreed to try some approaches to improve community awareness about death notification. They also plan to test a burial notification form that churches can submit to nurses.
Rev Mareta Tahu, Superintendent Minister of Honiara Circuit, United Methodist Church, said the discussion was timely. “We have been wanting this and we are ready to work together. We just need to plan together so churches know what to do and how they can help their communities.
Tony Foulkes, from WHO Solomon Islands, acknowledged the work of the MHMS and MHA in improving the civil registration and vital statistics system, and in bringing the churches on board. It is essential that the government has a complete and accurate picture to be able to plan how to support community health services, he said.
Dr. Matthew Reeve, from the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative/the University of Melbourne echoed those comments. “Churches are at the heart of the community. By working together, we hope that no death, particularly in rural villages, goes unrecorded. This way we can make sure that every life.