Using health extension workers for monitoring child mortality in real-time: Validation against household survey data in rural Ethiopia

Agbessi Amouzou, Aklilu Kidanu, Nolawi Taddesse, Romesh Mark Antony Silva, Elizabeth Hazel, Jennifer Bryce, Robert E. Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background Ethiopia has scaled up its community-based programs over the past decade by training and deploying health extension workers (HEWs) in rural communities throughout the country. Consequently, child mortality has declined substantially, placing Ethiopia among the few countries that have achieved the United Nations' fourth Millennium Development Goal. As Ethiopia continues its efforts, results must be assessed regularly to provide timely feedback for improvement and to generate further support for programs. More specifically the expansion of HEWs at the community level provides a unique opportunity to build a system for real-time monitoring of births and deaths, linked to a civil registration and vital statistics system that Ethiopia is also developing. We tested the accuracy and completeness of births and deaths reported by trained HEWs for monitoring child mortality over 15 -month periods. Methods and Findings HEWs were trained in 93 randomly selected rural kebeles in Jimma and West Hararghe zones of the Oromia region to report births and deaths over a 15-month period from January, 2012 to March, 2013. Completeness of number of births and deaths, age distribution of deaths, and accuracy of resulting under-five, infant, and neonatal mortality rates were assessed against data from a large household survey with full birth history from women aged 15-49. Although, in general HEWs, were able to accurately report events that they identified, the completeness of number of births and deaths reported over twelve-month periods was very low and variable across the two zones. Compared to household survey estimates, HEWs reported only about 30% of births and 21% of under-five deaths occurring in their communities over a twelve-month period. The under-five mortality rate was underestimated by around 30%, infant mortality rate by 23% and neonatal mortality by 17%. HEWs reported disproportionately higher number of deaths among the very young infants than among the older children. Conclusion Birth and death data reported by HEWs are not complete enough to support the monitoring of changes in childhood mortality. HEWs can significantly contribute to the success of a CRVS in Ethiopia, but cannot be relied upon as the sole source for identification of vital events. Further studies are needed to understand how to increase the level of completeness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0126909
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Using health extension workers for monitoring child mortality in real-time: Validation against household survey data in rural Ethiopia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this