Etard JF, Le Hesran JY, Diallo A, Diallo JP, Ndiaye JL, Delaunay V, 2004. “Childhood mortality and probable causes of death using verbal autopsy in Niakhar, Senegal, 1989-2000”, Int J Epidemiol, 33 : 1286-92.
Background In African rural settings, medically certified information on causes of death is largely lacking. The authors applied the verbal autopsy to identify causes of death before 15 years old in a rural area of Senegal where a demographic surveillance system is operating.
Methods Between 1989 and 2000, a postmortem interview was conducted using a standardized questionnaire which was independently reviewed by two physicians who assigned the probable underlying cause of death. Discordant diagnoses were discussed by a panel of physicians. Causes of death were grouped into a few categories ; cause-specific mortality rates and fractions were generated.
Results Between 1989 and 1997, all-cause mortality fluctuated. Diarrhoeal diseases, malaria and acute respiratory infections explained between 30% and 70% of the mortality before 10 years of age. In children 1–9 years old, malaria death rate increased between 1989 and 1994 and thereafter did not change. The 1998–2000 years were marked by a peak in mortality, attributed to a meningitis outbreak in children more than one year old paralleled by an increase in death rate from fever of unknown origin, diarrhoeal diseases, and acute respiratory infections in children under 5 years.
Conclusions Verbal autopsy provided useful information on the mortality structure responsible for the 1998–2000 peak in mortality. It underlined that, outside outbreak situations, malaria was a leading cause of death for 1–9 year old children and that diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, or fever from unknown origin accounted for up to 50% of the deaths among the children under 5 years.