Document Type



Pathology (East Africa)


The relationship of anemia as a risk factor for child mortality was analyzed by using cross-sectional, longitudinal and case-control studies, and randomized trials. Five methods of estimation were adopted: 1) the proportion of child deaths attributable to anemia; 2) the proportion of anemic children who die in hospital studies; 3) the population-attributable risk of child mortality due to anemia; 4) survival analyses of mortality in anemic children; and 5) cause-specific anemia-related child mortality. Most of the data available were hospital based. For children aged 0-5 y the percentage of deaths due to anemia was comparable for reports from highly malarious areas in Africa (Sierra Leone 11.2%, Zaire 12.2%, Kenya 14.3%). Ten values available for hemoglobin values /L showed a variation in case fatality from 2 to 29.3%. The data suggested little if any dose-response relating increasing hemoglobin level (whether by mean value or selected cut-off values) with decreasing mortality. Although mortality was increased in anemic children with hemoglobin /L, the evidence for increased risk with less severe anemia was inconclusive. The wide variation for mortality with hemoglobin /L is related to methodological variation and places severe limits on causal inference; in view of this, it is premature to generate projections on population-attributable risk. A preliminary survival analysis of an infant cohort from Malawi indicated that if the hemoglobin decreases by 10 g/L at age 6 mo, the risk of dying becomes 1.72 times higher. Evidence from a number of studies suggests that mortality due to malarial severe anemia is greater than that due to iron-deficiency anemia. Data are scarce on anemia and child mortality from non-malarious regions. Primary prevention of iron-deficiency anemia and malaria in young children could have substantive effects on reducing child mortality from severe anemia in children living in malarious areas.


This work was published prior to author’s joining Aga Khan University


Journal of Nutrition

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