Causes of maternal deaths in Sierra Leone from 2016 to 2019: Analysis of districts' maternal death surveillance and response data

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Introduction: Sierra Leone is among the top countries with the highest maternal mortality rates. Although progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality, challenges remain, including limited access to skilled care and regional disparities in accessing quality care. This paper presents the first comprehensive analysis of the burden of different causes of maternal deaths reported in the Maternal Death Surveillance and Response (MDSR) system at the district level from 2016 to 2019.
Methods: The MDSR data are accessed from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and the secondary data analysis was done to determine the causes of maternal death in Sierra Leone. The proportions of each leading cause of maternal deaths were estimated by districts. A subgroup analysis of the selected causes of death was also performed.
Results: Overall, obstetric haemorrhage was the leading cause of maternal death (39.4%), followed by hypertensive disorders (15.8%) and pregnancy-related infections (10.1%). Within obstetric haemorrhage, postpartum haemorrhage was the leading cause in each district. The burden of death due to obstetric haemorrhage slightly increased over the study period, while hypertensive disorders showed a slightly decreasing trend. Disparities were found among districts for all causes of maternal death, but no clear geographical pattern emerged. Non-obstetric complications were reported in 11.5% of cases.
Conclusion: The MDSR database provides an opportunity for shared learning and can be used to improve the quality of maternal health services. To improve the accuracy and availability of data, under-reporting must be addressed, and frontline community staff must be trained to accurately capture and report death events.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

Global Health