Civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems provide essential information on the population of a country, including on births, deaths and marriages, among other life events. These systems have the potential to play a fundamental role in socio-economic planning and monitoring of public policies. However, CRVS data are not comprehensive or accurate across many countries and topics. This challenge has been highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis, as countries with weak death registration systems could not accurately register all deaths and their causes or analyse national mortality statistics in a timely manner.
To illustrate some of the challenges and opportunities associated with using CRVS in times of crisis, this paper analyses data for Pakistan’s Punjab province. The existing CRVS system in Punjab proved insufficient to provide COVID-19-related mortality updates. In response, the government of Punjab introduced a COVID-19 dashboard; an extension system that includes suspected, diagnosed and confirmed cases, related mortality and personal details for contact tracing. This experience demonstrates the importance of comprehensive and timely registry data for inclusive policy making. The paper highlights that the policies implemented for the management of COVID-19 in Punjab had been mostly gender-blind as a result of the lack of data. It further calls for the need to fill gaps in existing vital statistics recording systems in order to generate sex-disaggregated estimates to inform the management of future pandemics, including gender-sensitive policy responses.