A joint study was conducted by the Health Research Directorate under the aegis of the Ministry of health with the collaboration of UK public Health and the Council for Medical Research has issued a strong recommendation that there needs to be an establishment of electronic civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) along with a mortality surveillance system in Gambia.
This study gives us a first estimate of the mortality trends in Gambia during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact scale of COVID-19 on low-income countries like the Gambia is unclear. This study was conducted for the period 2016-2022.
Also, this study seeks to get an estimate of excess deaths from all different causes during the pandemic as well as changes in the mortality rate from the review period. The study also seeks to generate baseline information to support the mortality surveillance going on in the Gambia.
While presenting the study results based on the theme, Retrospective Mortality Survey in the Gambia, the senior health researcher at the health research directorate, Joseph Jatta also acknowledged that registering and monitoring deaths in the country are weak or absent in many communities.
He said. “the assessment of all-cause mortality over a period of time will provide a comprehensive measure of the COVID-19 impact. Data on mortality were collected from all private and public health centers across the Gambia which included 56 public health centers, 39 private health centers, as well as 106 health nurses. Also, public health mortality data for 2018-2020, from the previous study was available.”
Jatta explained that the data of all the deaths recorded in communities and facilities of the Gambia in the time period of 5.5 years (Jan 2016-Jun 2021) was thereafter collated electronically and that the data was inclusive of the name, type, and region of the health center.
He also said that most of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa including the Gambia do not possess a civil registration vital statistic system in order to monitor the effects of COVID-19 on the mortality of a person. Many facilities and communities in the Gambia lack the system or tradition of registering and monitoring deaths. He added that the study had recommended strongly that there be an establishment of electronic civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) and there also needs to be studies done on the factors of high mortality like fetal issues, NCD, and Sepsis, particularly cardiac failure and Strokes.
Joseph Jatta ended by saying that the public needed to be sensitized about COVID-19 and its fallouts and this should be a concerted effort across the country. According to him, health care services need to be decentralized in order to reduce the burden of mortality on the region of the West Coast.