Opinion

World Vision and Statistics

5 July 2012 at 07:14 | 2871 views

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Freetown.

A recent World Vision report stated that 90 children die every day in Sierra Leone. That this is untrue, in all its interpretations is beside the point but the fact that it is promoted as concrete figures on which resources are being advocated to continue their presence in this Country is unacceptable, unfair and downright incredulous. Lies, damn lies and statistics, is what the World Vision report is and if they are sincere enough, they ought to retract that statement. The figure of 90 children dying per day is a mathematical calculation based on a principle of numbers of deaths per year, rising on an annual basis by a number of percentage points as from the base period of 2008 to the present terminal cut-off period of 2013 – a five year statistical reference point that would result in a figure of around 280 deaths per 1,000 live births which when approximated in line with population levels equate to around 90 casualties per day. This mathematics is unruly for the simple reason that it is based on assumptions that are now moribund. The intentions of the researchers who arrived at this conclusion is also suspect because they failed to take account of a recent re-structure of infant and maternal death statistics accentuated by the British Medical Council’s research publication, the Lancet, which published a report by two eminent physician researchers on the efficacy of infant mortality ratios and the practicalities of some basic assumptions ingrained in the former method of their calculation.

The study in the main, discredited some of the extraneous considerations such as economic and social indices predominant within adult populations but which were assumed to be tangential to child mortality due to the intrinsic link between adult and child interactions and dependency. In a revised model, it was postulated that infant and maternal mortality figures as calculated by major institutions such as the WHO were to be reviewed downwards with a significant impact on casualties reaching up to 40% reduction impact. Another problem with these calculations is the stubborn impact that the Free Medical Services to Pregnant women and lactating mothers introduced by the President of Sierra Leone in 2009 is not factored in on these calculations. In the event, the statistics is faulty and the result of the postulations are wrong, so badly wrong that they must not be allowed to stand. The World Vision researchers have extrapolated figures from the 2008 DoH Strategy Reports and other MICs data of that period as base or source information for their analyses, and then introduced a mathematical algorithm to arrive at a daily morbidity figure that has since been outstripped by events on the ground. They are bound to come up with the tainted result that they have now and for that matter, they have allowed historical situations and events to infect a situation that is currently the beneficiary of visionary leadership and intervention. It is true that Sierra Leone does still experience a less than comfortable death rate for newborn children and pregnant women undergoing the birth process, but a simple fact that must now be informing current thinking is that buttressed by the report from Save the Children, a more than credible international NGO based in the United Kingdom wherein, they have demonstrated that Sierra Leone has jumped up 12 places in the collation of the world’s safest places to give birth. Such action statistics tell a story or indeed paint a picture that is contrary to the one painted or otherwise being told by declining survival rates of young children.

One thing that must be taken into account is that the health conditions inherited by the Ernest Koroma Government was in such a dismal state that most international organizations even discounted any significant progress could be achieved in terms of improving the conditions and outcomes for health in a the near future. That there has been a marked improvement since Ernest Koroma took over the reins of Government in 2007, is in itself a development outc0ome second to none. The President immediately moved health up his priorities when it became apparent that its significance to the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) was so important for attracting institutional funds to Sierra Leone. This Government has wasted no time in engaging with mainstream institutional financing such as the High Level Task Force for Health Infrastructure as well as collaborating with the H4 group of organizations to promote strategic health initiatives for Sierra Leone. The current state of health care delivery in the Country is far removed from what was inherited with more positive outcomes secured for millions of vulnerable women and children across the entire country. Such is a more palatable result though it cannot be argued that more need to be done to improve our mortality rates further. The result of the Save the Children’s world class comparison indicate that the benefits of targeted policies to improve health outcomes are working for Sierra Leone, and all these achievements have been initiated and secured by the present Government, no prevarication there!

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