Mozambique has one of the highest under-5 mortality rates in the world. Community health workers (CHWs) are deployed to increase access to care; in Mozambique they are known as agentes polivalentes elementares (APEs). This study aimed to investigate child deaths in an area served by APEs by analysing the causes, care seeking patterns, and the influence of social capital.
Caregivers of children under-5 who died in 2015 in Inhambane province, Mozambique, were interviewed using Verbal Autopsy/Social Autopsy (VA/SA) tools with a social capital module. VA data were analysed using the WHO InterVA analytical tool to determine cause of death. SA was analysed using the INDEPTH SA framework for illnesses lasting no more than three weeks. Social capital scores were calculated.
117 child deaths were reported; VA/SA was conducted for 115. Eighty-five had died from an acute illness lasting no more than three weeks, which in most cases could have been treated at community level; 50.6% died from malaria, 11.8% from HIV/AIDS, and 9.4% for each of diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections. In 35.3% the caregiver only noticed that the
child was sick when symptoms of very severe illness developed. One in four children were never taken outside the home before dying. Sixteen children were first taken to an APE; of these 7 had signs of very severe illness. Caregivers who waited to seek care until the illness was very severe had a lower social capital score. The mean travel time to go to the APE was 2hrs 50min, which was not different from any other provider. Most received treatment from the APE, 3 were referred. The majority went to another provider after the APE; most to a health centre.
The leading causes of death in children under-5 can be detected, treated or referred by APEs. Major care seeking delays took place in the home, largely due to lack of early disease recognition and late decision-making. Low social capital, distance to APEs and to referral facilities likely contribute to these delays. Increasing caregiver illness awareness is urgently needed, as well as stronger referral linkages. A review of the geographical coverage and scope of work of APEs should be conducted.
Country: MozambiqueKeywords: Community delivery | Child and maternal health | Case management | iCCM | Quality improvement | SDG3
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