Childhood deaths from anaemia in Accra, Ghana

Commey, J.O.; Dekyem, P.

West African Journal of Medicine 14(2): 101-104


ISSN/ISBN: 0189-160X
PMID: 7495709
Document Number: 5076
Severe anemia has remained a major cause of morbidity and mortality in children of Southern Ghana since the early 1960s. Cases of anemia and anemia-associated mortality in the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), Accra, that occurred from January to December 1991 were reviewed. Data on hemoglobin levels, hypochromia, and malaria parasitemia of children referred from January to December 1991 were collected and analyzed to determine the prevalence of moderate/severe malaria parasitemia, anemia, and severe anemia. 10,989 (71.1%) of 15,450 children attending KBTH referred to the laboratory for hematological studies had hemoglobin (Hb) levels below 11.0 g/dl; while 3049 children (27.7%) of anemic patients had Hb levels below 7.0 g/dl. Of these 3049 children with severe anemia, 2185 (71.7%) had Hb levels below 5.0 g/dl, thus requiring urgent blood transfusion. Though the Department of Child Health alone utilized 32.2% of total blood processed by the National Blood Transfusion Service at KBTH, as many as 259 (58.1%) of the 554 deaths (306 male and 248 female) in the emergency room in children beyond the neonatal period were related to severe anemia. The main causes were nutritional anemia (n = 135), anemia associated with severe malaria (n = 56), anemia associated with sickle cell disease (n = 28), anemia associated with protein-energy malnutrition (n = 22), and 18 cases of anemia complicating gastroenteritis, pneumonia, meningitis, and convulsions. 108 (19.5%) deaths occurred because of neonatal sepsis, severe neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, meningitis and bronchopneumonia, severe anemia secondary to hemorrhage of the newborn, and faulty cord ligation. A significant decline occurred in the prevalence of childhood anemia in the developed world following improved counseling in nutrition, fortification of foods with iron, and iron supplementation to infants and schoolchildren with the attendant improvement in growth velocity and intellectual performance. A planned national anemia survey and early consideration of iron supplementation to older infants and preschool children at risk are recommended.

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Childhood deaths from anaemia in Accra, Ghana