Maternal Mortality in Rural South Ethiopia: Outcomes of Community-Based Birth Registration by Health Extension Workers
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Introduction: Rural communities in low-income countries lack vital registrations to track birth outcomes. We aimed to examine the feasibility of community-based birth registration and measure maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in rural south Ethiopia. Methods: In 2010, health extension workers (HEWs) registered births and maternal deaths among 421,639 people in three districts (Derashe, Bonke, and Arba Minch Zuria). One nurse-supervisor per district provided administrative and technical support to HEWs. The primary outcomes were the feasibility of registration of a high proportion of births and measuring MMR. The secondary outcome was the proportion of skilled birth attendance. We validated the completeness of the registry and the MMR by conducting a house-to-house survey in 15 randomly selected villages in Bonke. Results: We registered 10,987 births (81,4% of expected 13,492 births) with annual crude birth rate of 32 per 1,000 population. The validation study showed that, of 2,401 births occurred in the surveyed households within eight months of the initiation of the registry, 71,6% (1,718) were registered with similar MMRs (474 vs. 439) between the registered and unregistered births. Overall, we recorded 53 maternal deaths; MMR was 489 per 100,000 live births and 83% (44 of 53 maternal deaths) occurred at home. Ninety percent (9,863 births) were at home, 4% (430) at health posts, 2,5% (282) at health centres, and 3,5% (412) in hospitals. MMR increased if: the male partners were illiterate (609 vs. 346; p= 0.051) and the villages had no road access (946 vs. 410; p= 0.039). The validation helped to increase the registration coverage by 10% through feedback discussions. Conclusion: It is possible to obtain a high-coverage birth registration and measure MMR in rural communities where a functional system of community health workers exists. The MMR was high in rural south Ethiopia and most births and maternal deaths occurred at home.