oa South African Medical Journal - Hospital deaths in non-European children

Volume 24, Issue 48
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



A total of 557 deaths in non-European children in hospital has been analysed over a two-year period. Over 1,000 children (up to the age of 12 years) were admitted to the wards each year, these being roughly 3% of the out-patients seen during the year. With the exception of prematures, autopsies were performed in about 60% of cases. The overall mortality rate among children did not show any well-marked seasonal preponderance. The overall mortality rate was 25% in 1948 and 17% in 1949. It decreased with age. Important factors in the high mortality rate are: (a) Widespread malnutrition. (b) Only very ill children are admitted to the wards. (c) Due to poverty, fear, ignorance, superstition and neglect, many babies are only brought to hospital when moribund. The commonest causes of death in children are pneumonia and gastro-enteritis. Together they account for about a third of admissions and deaths. The mortality rate of gastro-enteritis in 1948 was 34% and exactly half that figure in 1949. The mortality rate of pneumonia was 40% in 1948 and 20% the following year. Tuberculosis anywhere in the body was found in 26% of children over the age of one month. Of 32 cases of tuberculous meningitis diagnosed and treated, only two are still alive.

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