UNICEF/NYHQ1992-0311/Sean Sprague

Country Countdown Principles

The guiding principles for a Countdown process, at global, national, or sub-national level, are summarised below:

  • Focus on data quality and data for action: Compile and analyse national and sub-national data on outcomes, coverage for proven interventions, and determinants of coverage; review and improve data quality
  • Consider the full continuum of care and all population groups: Recognise links across reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH) and nutrition, and focus on equity of coverage
  • Align with country processes:  Strengthen national institutions and mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating progress
  • Involve all stakeholders: Recognise government’s key role, but involve independent technical experts and civil society to ensure inclusion and accountability
  • Use flexible approaches: Begin with standard Countdown indicators and tools, but adapt to the country’s unique conditions, needs, and objectives
  • Ensure adequate funding: Mobilise sufficient financial support for a successful Countdown process
  • Maintain ongoing process and maximise accountability: Ensure uptake of findings and recommendations into national policies and plans

Country Countdown Process

The Country Countdown process is based on a dynamic, ongoing improvement and accountability cycle, rather than a one-time event.  Important elements of a successful Countdown include the following:

  • Defining and obtaining geographic and time-specific data for key RMNCH indicators, and tracking them over time
  • Working in partnership to review and improve data quality and availability
  • Using  data to construct time- and geographic-specific profiles that present indicator coverage levels, trends, and breakdowns by key equity considerations
  • Developing summary findings and key messages that highlight progress and policy/programme areas that need investment and improvement
  • Sharing these results with decision makers and media in ways that support their use in strengthening RMNCH policies and programmes
  • Assessing the effectiveness of each cycle and acting on what is learned to improve performance in the next cycle

The expected results of this process include evidence-based decisions, leading to stronger and more equitable RMNCH programmes.  The figure below shows the cyclical contributions of Countdown process within the national planning context:

program cycle

A detailed guide for countries and partners, part of the Country Countdown Toolkit, contains a step-by-step guide to planning and executing a Country Countdown process, and includes an implementation checklist to assist organisers in planning, managing, and implementing the process.