Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – In a concerted effort to address the critical issues of stillbirths and child mortality in Sierra Leone, the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) Network, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, presented early research findings at the 2023 CHAMPS National Advisory Forum. The forum, held on Wednesday, November 29, 2023, at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Aberdeen, Freetown, focused on the theme “Call to Action: Use of CHAMPS Data for Action, Policy, and Research.”
The CHAMPS National Advisory Forum served as a pivotal platform, bringing together stakeholders to engage in a constructive dialogue aimed at shaping the future of child health in Sierra Leone. Participants delved into early research findings, explored collaboration avenues, and contributed insights to enhance the utilization of CHAMPS data for actionable measures.
CHAMPS is a global network that provides timely and accurate tracking of infectious and preventable causes of death for children under five. Funded by the Gates Foundation, with technical support from Emory University, CHAMPS intervention in Sierra Leone is jointly implemented by Crown Agents, World Hope International, and Focus 1000 to combat child mortality.
During his keynote address, Dr Charles Senessie, the Deputy Minister of Health, expressed appreciation for the data compiled by CHAMPS, emphasizing the crucial role of data in development. He underscored the seriousness with which the Ministry views issues related to stillbirths and child mortality, affirming their commitment to working collaboratively with CHAMPS and other partners to address these challenges.
Dr Senessie acknowledged the prevalent issue in hospitals and clinics where the root cause of a child’s illness is often not thoroughly investigated. He pledged ongoing collaboration with CHAMPS to address the high rate of child deaths in the country and emphasized the need to strengthen the healthcare sector, ensuring infectious work practices among doctors and nurses.
Dr Ike Ogbuanu, the Director of CHAMPS in Sierra Leone, outlined CHAMPS’ role in determining and tracking the causes of under-five mortality and stillbirths through epidemiologic surveillance and advanced laboratory testing. He explained that CHAMPS focuses on understanding why children are dying within 24 hours, conducting lab tests to identify the root cause, and forwarding the information to the government for action.
Dr Ogbuanu highlighted the high death rate of children in Sierra Leone, stating that the normal percentage is 30/1000, whereas in Sierra Leone, it is alarmingly higher at 121/1000 children dying annually. He stressed the importance of reducing this death rate and encouraged mothers to provide nutritious food for their children. He also urged the government to prioritize child health, emphasizing the role of CHAMPS in improving child health programs.
Dr Daphne Moffet, the Country Director for the Centre for Disease Control, emphasized the significance of data in making informed decisions and developing strategies to reduce child mortality rates and enhance the overall health system in the country.
Other speakers, including representatives from WHO and UNICEF, also made meaningful contributions to the engagement, underscoring the importance of collaborative efforts to tackle the challenges of stillbirths and child mortality in Sierra Leone. MJB/29/11/2023