Robinson et al. Conflict and Health (2019) 13:56
Background: During humanitarian crises, health information systems are often lacking and surveys are a valuable tool to assess the health needs of affected populations. In 2013, a mortality and health survey undertaken by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the conflict affected Walikale territory of North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), indicated mortality rates exceeding humanitarian crisis thresholds and a high burden of mortality and morbidity due to malaria. In late 2017, after a period of relative stability, MSF reassessed the health status of the population through a second survey to guide ongoing operations.
Methods: A two-stage cluster survey, selecting villages using probability proportional to size and households using random walk procedures, was conducted. Household members were interviewed on morbidity and mortality, healthcare use, vaccination status, and bednet availability.
Results: The sample included 5711 persons in 794 households. The crude mortality rate (CMR) and under-five mortality rate (U5MR) were 0.98 per 10,000 persons/day (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.78–1.2) and 1.3 per 10,000 persons/day (95% CI): 0.82–2.0), respectively. The most frequently reported causes of death were fever/malaria (31%), diarrhoea (15%) and respiratory infections (8%). In 89% of households at least one person was reported as falling ill in the previous 2 weeks, and 58% sought healthcare. Cost was the main barrier amongst 58% of those who did not seek healthcare. Coverage of measles-containing-vaccine was 62% in under-fives. Sufficient bednet coverage (1 bednet/2 people) was reported from 17% of households.
Conclusion: The second survey illustrates that although mortality is now just below crisis thresholds, the area still experiences excess mortality and has substantial health needs. The study results have supported the further expansion of integrated community case management to improve access to care for malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections. Such surveys are important to orient operations to the health needs of the population being served and also highlight the ongoing vulnerability of populations after humanitarian crises.
Keywords: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Health surveys, Morbidity, Mortality, Vaccination coverage, Mosquitoe bednets