Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Clinical assessment and treatment in paediatric wards in the north-east of the United Republic of Tanzania

Hugh Reyburn, Emmanuel Mwakasungula, Semkini Chonya, Frank Mtei, Ib Bygbjerg, Anja Poulsen, Raimos Olomi


We assessed paediatric care in the 13 public hospitals in the north-east of the United Republic of Tanzania to determine if diagnoses and treatments were consistent with current guidelines for care.


Data were collected over a five-day period in each site where paediatric outpatient consultations were observed, and a record of care was extracted from the case notes of children on the paediatric ward. Additional data were collected from inspection of ward supplies and hospital reports.


Of 1181 outpatient consultations, basic clinical signs were often not checked; e.g. of 895 children with a history of fever, temperature was measured in 57%, and of 657 of children with cough or dyspnoea only 57 (9%) were examined for respiratory rate.

Among 509 inpatients weight was recorded in the case notes in 250 (49%), respiratory rate in 54 (11%) and mental state in 47 (9%). Of 206 malaria diagnoses, 123 (60%) were with a negative or absent slide result, and of these 44 (36%) were treated with quinine only. Malnutrition was diagnosed in 1% of children admitted while recalculation of nutritional Z-scores suggested that between 5% and 10% had severe acute malnutrition; appropriate feeds were not present in any of the hospitals. A diagnosis of HIV-AIDS was made in only two cases while approximately 5% children admitted were expected to be infected with HIV in this area.


Clinical assessment of children admitted to paediatric wards is disturbingly poor and associated with missed diagnoses and inappropriate treatments. Improved assessment and records are essential to initiate change, but achieving this will be a challenging task.