Causes of and trends in childhood mortality in a rural South African sub-district

Ansong, Daniel
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Background: Studies into childhood mortality present the opportunity to identify the leading and common causes of childhood mortality in different populations. Objectives: To study the trends in all-cause mortality, and patterns of cause-specific mortality, in children 0-14 years living in the Agincourt sub-district of South Africa over the period 1992-2000. Methods: Secondary data analysis based on the longitudinal database from the Agincourt Demographic and Health Surveillance System was used to study trends in childhood mortality between 1992 and 2000, and a comparison was made between the earlier period (1992-96) and the later period (1997-2000). Results: Seven hundred and twenty four deaths occurred over the 9 year period, 1992 to 2000, in children aged 0-14 years in the Agincourt sub-district of South Africa. Over 80% of the deaths occurred in children under-five years of age. Death rates in children under one year in the periods 1992-1996 and 1997-2000 were 8.9/1000 live births and 18.0/1000 live births respectively. Children under five years between 1992-1996 and 1997-2000 had death rates of 18.0/1000 live births and 35.0/1000 live births respectively. There was a statistically significant difference in death rate in infants, and in children less than five years, in those who died over the period 1992-1996 and those who died during the later period 1997-2000, with mortality showing an increasing trend (p-values <0.0001 for infants and for children under five years). Overall mortality rates in all children under 14 years between 1992-1996 and 1997-2000 were 26.4/10000 person-years and 37.7/10000 person-years respectively. There was no significant statistical difference in the overall mortality trend among children aged 0-14 years between the two periods of time (p-value 0.614). Infectious and communicable diseases were the leading causes of death with diarrhoeal deaths accounting for 15.2%, HIV/AIDS 9.7% and malnutrition 7.6%. Deaths from diarrhoeal disease between 1992-1996 and 1997-2000 were 481/million and 449/million person-years respectively. Deaths from HIV/AIDS within the same time periods were 107/million and 607/million person-years respectively. HIV/AIDS showed a statistically significant difference over the two periods with an increased risk ratio of 5.59 (95% confidence interval of 4.6 to 70). Conclusion: This analysis reinforced previous findings pointing to the fact that infectious and communicable diseases are the leading causes of childhood mortality in South Africa and other developing countries. HIV/AIDS and diarrhoeal diseases have emerged as major causes of mortality in this analysis. Efforts to control the HIV epidemic and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS must be accelerated in the Agincourt sub-district.
Student Number : 0310359D - MSc project report - School of Public Health - Faculty of Health Sciences
childhood mortality , rural , South Africa , causes , trends