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Open Access Paediatric care in relation to the 2014–2015 Ebola outbreak and general reporting of deaths in Sierra Leone

Setting: All peripheral health units countrywide in Sierra Leone and one hospital in Port Loko.

Objectives: Sierra Leone was severely affected by the 2014–2015 Ebola outbreak, whose impact on paediatric care and mortality reports merits assessment. We sought to compare the periods before, during and after the Ebola outbreak, the countrywide trend in morbidities in children aged < 5 years and exit outcomes in one district hospital (Port Loko). During the Ebola outbreak period, gaps in district death reporting within the routine Health Management Information System (HMIS) were compared with the Safe and Dignified Burials (SDB) database in Port Loko.

Design: This was a retrospective records analysis.

Results: The average number of monthly consultations during the Ebola outbreak period declined by 27% for malaria and acute respiratory infections and 38% for watery diarrhoea, and did not recover to the pre-Ebola levels. For measles, there was an 80% increase during Ebola, which multiplied by 6.5-fold post-Ebola. The number of unfavourable hospital exit outcomes was 52/397 (13%) during Ebola, which was higher than pre-Ebola (47/496, 9%, P = 0.04). Of 6565 deaths reported in the Port Loko SDB database, only 2219 (34%) appeared in the HMIS, a reporting deficit of 66%.

Conclusion: The Ebola disease outbreak was associated with reduced utilisation of health services, and appears to have triggered a measles epidemic. Almost 70% of deaths were missed by the HMIS during the Ebola outbreak period. These findings could guide health system responses in future outbreaks.

Keywords: SORT IT; health systems; operational research; vital registration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: District Health Management Team, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Port Loko, Sierra Leone 2: Alliance for Public Health, Kiev, Ukraine 3: Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Baroda Medical College, Vadodara, India 4: Operational Research Unit, Médecins Sans Frontières, Brussels Operational Centre, Luxembourg

Publication date: June 21, 2017

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