Background: Approximately 46 million of the estimated 60 million deaths that occur in the world each year take place in developing countries. Further, this mortality is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, although causes of mortality in this region are not well documented. The objective of this study is to describe the most frequent causes of mortality in children under 15 years of age in the demographic surveillance area of the Manhiça Health Research Centre, between 1997 and 2006, using the verbal autopsy tool.
Methods: Verbal autopsy interviews for causes of death in children began in 1997. Each questionnaire was reviewed independently by three physicians with experience in tropical paediatrics, who assigned the cause of death according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). Each medical doctor attributed a minimum of one and a maximum of 2 causes. A final diagnosis is reached when at least two physicians agreed on the cause of death.
Results: From January 1997 to December 2006, 568,499 person-year at risk (pyrs) and 10,037 deaths were recorded in the Manhiça DSS. 3,730 deaths with 246,658 pyrs were recorded for children under 15 years of age. Verbal autopsy interviews were conducted on 3,002 (80.4%) of these deaths. 73.6% of deaths were attributed to communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases accounted for 9.5% of the defined causes of death, and injuries for 3.9% of causes of deaths. Malaria was the single largest cause, accounting for 21.8% of cases. Pneumonia with 9.8% was the second leading cause of death, followed by HIV/AIDS (8.3%) and diarrhoeal diseases with 8%.
Conclusion: The results of this study stand out the big challenges that lie ahead in the fight against infectious diseases in the study area. The pattern of childhood mortality in Manhiça area is typical of developing countries where malaria, pneumonia and HIV/AIDS are important causes of death.