Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – The Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Charles Senessie, launched the Healthy Sierra Leone (HEAL-SL) Report on the causes of death in Sierra Leone, revealing a staggering 75,000 deaths in the year 2023. The report, unveiled at the Radisson Blu Aberdeen, drew the attention of top health stakeholders across the country, highlighting the urgency to address the high premature mortality rates, particularly those occurring before the age of 70.
Formerly known as Countrywide Mortality Surveillance for Action (COMSA), Healthy Sierra Leone initiated data collection in 2018, led by the Ministry of Health and Njala University, with technical support from the University of Toronto. The system efficiently records births and deaths, utilizing electronic verbal autopsy to determine the causes of death. Currently surveying five percent of the population annually, HEAL-SL aims to establish a comprehensive understanding of the causes of death for informed decision-making.
Professors Rashid Ansuman Rashid from Njala University and Prahat Jna from the University of Toronto presented an overview of the report from 2018 to 2023. They stressed that while death is inevitable, premature death is not, emphasizing that the data only represents registered deaths, excluding those in hard-to-reach areas.
The report revealed that a significant portion of deaths before the age of 70 resulted from preventable and treatable infections, with malaria being the leading cause, accounting for 23% of such deaths. Other common infections causing diarrhoea, pneumonia, and tuberculosis contributed to an additional one quarter of premature deaths.
The breakdown of leading causes of death included malaria at 23%, neonatal at 14%, road traffic accidents at 2%, other infections at 29%, heart and stroke at 9%, and other chronic conditions at 14%, among others.
Professor Bahshiru M. Koroma, the Vice Chancellor of Njala University, emphasized that behind every statistic lies a human story, and the causes of deaths provide critical insights into the country’s health sector. Dr. Amara Jambai underscored the importance of data for solving societal problems, and the HEAL-SL report was deemed a crucial tool for addressing challenges in the health sector.
Deputy Minister of Health Dr Charles Senessie acknowledged the comprehensive nature of the report, covering infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, maternal mortality, and road traffic accidents over the last five years. He recognized the report as a call to action, pledging the government’s commitment to utilizing the information to guide actions and address gaps in the health system.
Dr Samantha Dolan from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other speakers made meaningful contributions, endorsing the significance of the report. The launch concluded with Deputy Minister Senessie officially launching the HEAL-SL report on behalf of the Vice President of Sierra Leone. MJB/5/12/2023