Malaria is a serious public health problem, with some 212 million new cases and nearly half a million malaria deaths worldwide in 2015 alone. Despite recent progress in control and treatment of the disease, the African region continues to bear the brunt of the global malaria burden. Most of the population there continues to lack access to the appropriate tools and care for its prevention and treatment. Under-5 children, whose immune systems are not yet fully developed, are the most at risk for and vulnerable to the disease.

The aim of this study was to investigate the main risk factors for mortality in children hospitalized for suspected malaria infection in the pediatric ward of the Pujehun Hospital in Sierra Leone. It looked at 320 children from 1 January 2015 to 31 May 2016, 232 (72.2%) of whom were found to be infected. Nearly all of the children were given antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs upon admission to the hospital.

An analysis of the data collected confirmed that impaired neurological status at the time of admission was one of the top mortality risk factors for the children. Respiratory arrest, malnutrition and dehydration were identified as additional health risk factors. The study’s findings point to a need to intensify malaria prevention and treatment interventions and to expand equipment and personnel levels.