Mortality rates, prevalence of malnutrition, and prevalence of lost pregnancies among the drought-ravaged population of Tete Province, Mozambique


Tete Province, Mozambique has experienced chronic food insecurity and a dramatic fall in livestock numbers due to the cyclic problems characterized by the floods in 2000 and severe droughts in 2002 and 2003. The Province has been a beneficiary of emergency relief programs, which have assisted > 22% of the population. However, these programs were not based on sound epidemiological data, and they have not established baseline data against which to assess the impact of the programs.
The objective of this study was to document mortality rates, causes of death, the prevalence of malnutrition, and the prevalence of lost pregnancies after 2.5 years of humanitarian response to the crisis.
A two-stage, 30-cluster household survey was conducted in the Cahora Bassa and Changara districts from 22 October to 08 November 2004. A total of 838 households were surveyed, with a population size of 4,688 people.
Anthropometric data were collected among children 6-59 months of age. In addition, crude mortality rates (CMRs), under five mortality rates (U5MRs), causes of deaths, and prevalence of lost pregnancies were determined among the sample population. The prevalence of malnutrition was 8.0% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 6.2-9.8%) for acute malnutrition, 26.9% (95% CI = 24.0-29.9%) for being underweight, and 37.0% (95% CI = 33.8-40.2%) for chronic malnutrition. Boys were more likely to be underweight than were girls (odds ratio (OR) = 1.34; 95% CI = 1.00, 1.82; p < 0.05) after controlling for age, household size, and food aid beneficiary status. Similarly, children 30-59 months of age were significantly less likely to suffer from acute malnutrition (OR = 0.45; 95% CI = 0.26, 0.79; p < 0.01) and less likely to be underweight (OR = 0.37; 95% CI = 0.27, 0.51; p < 0.01) than children 6-29 months of age, after adjusting for the other, aforementioned factors. The proportion of lost pregnancies was estimated at 7.7% (95% CI = 4.5-11.0%). A total of 215 deaths were reported during the year preceding the survey. Thirty-nine (18.1%) children < 5 years of age died. The CMR was 1.23/10,000/day (95% CI = 1.08-1.38), and an U5MR was 1.03/10,000/day (95% CI = 0.71-1.35). Diarrheal diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) accounted for more than two-thirds of all deaths.
The observed CMR in Tete Province, Mozambique is three times higher than the baseline rate for sub-Saharan Africa and 1.4 times higher than the CMR cut-off point used to define excess mortality in emergencies. The current humanitarian response in Tete Province would benefit from an improved alignment of food aid programming in conjunction with diarrheal disease control, HIV/AIDS, and malaria prevention and treatment programs. The impact of the food programs would be improved if mutually acceptable food aid program objectives, verifiable indicators relevant to each objective, and beneficiary targets and selection criteria are developed. Periodic re-assessments and evaluations of the impact of the program and evidenced-based decision-making urgently are needed to avert a chronic dependency on food aid.

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