Quality of care for children with acute malnutrition at health center level in Uganda: a cross sectional study in West Nile region during the refugee crisis

Humphrey Wanzira, Richard Muyinda, Peter Lochoro, Giovanni Putoto, Giulia Segafredo, Henry Wamani, Marzia Lazzerini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Arua district, in Uganda, hosts some of the largest refugee camps in the country. The estimated prevalence of moderate and severe acute malnutrition in children is higher than the national estimates (10.4 and 5.6% respectively, compared to 3.6 and 1.3%). This study aimed at assessing the quality of care provided to children with acute malnutrition at out-patient level in such a setting. Methods: Six facilities with the highest number of children with malnutrition were selected. The main tool used was the National Nutrition Service Delivery Assessment Tool, assessing 10 key areas of service delivery and assigned a score as either poor, fair, good or excellent. Health outcomes, quality of case management and data quality were assessed from the health management information system and from the official nutrition registers. Results: All facilities except two scored either poor or fair under all the 10 assessment areas. Overall, 33/60 (55%) areas scored as poor, 25/60 (41%) as fair, 2/60 (3.3%) as good, and none as excellent. Main gaps identified included: lack of trained staff; disorganised patient flow; poor case management; stock out of essential supplies including ready-to-use therapeutic foods; weak community linkage. A sample coverage of 45.4% (1020/2248) of total children admitted in the district during the 2016 financial year were included. The overall mean cure rate was 52.9% while the default rate was 38.3%. There was great heterogeneity across health facilities in health outcomes, quality of case management, and data quality. Conclusion: This study suggests that quality of care provided to children with malnutrition at health center level is substandard with unacceptable low cure rates. It is essential to identify effective approaches to enhance adherence to national guidelines, provision of essential nutritional commodities, regular monitoring of services and better linkage with the community through village health teams.

Original languageEnglish
Article number561
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 17 2018


  • Acute malnutrition
  • Children under 5 years
  • Health center
  • Quality assessment
  • Quality of care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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