Child mortality is high in Ethiopia, but reliable data on the causes of death are scarce. We aimed to gather data for the contributory causes of stillbirth and child deaths in eastern Ethiopia.
In this population-based post-mortem study, we established a death-notification system in health facilities and in the community in Kersa (rural), Haramaya (rural) and Harar (urban) in eastern Ethiopia, at a new site of the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) network. We collected ante-mortem data, did verbal autopsies, and collected post-mortem samples via minimally invasive tissue sampling from stillbirths (weighing at least 1000 g or with an estimated gestational age of at least 28 weeks) and children who died younger than 5 years. Children—or their mothers, in the case of stillbirths and deaths in children younger than 6 months—had to have lived in the catchment area for the past 6 months to be included. Molecular, microbiological, and histopathological analyses were done in collected samples. Cause of death was established by an expert panel on the basis of these data and classified as underlying, comorbid, or immediate separately for stillbirths, neonatal deaths (deaths aged 0–27 days), and child deaths (aged 28 days to <5 years).