Usefulness of disease surveillance data in enhanced early warning of the cholera outbreak in Southwest Cameroon, 2018

Reine Suzanne Mengue Kadia, Benjamin Kadia*, Christian Akem Dimala, Andrew E Collins

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: This study assessed the timeliness and completeness of disease surveillance data for early warning of the cholera outbreak during the socio-political crisis of Southwest Cameroon in 2018. It determined how routine integrated disease surveillance and response (IDSR) data was used for preventative actions and the challenges faced by key health staff in IDSR based decision-making. Methods: This was a mixed-methods study conducted from June 1st to September 30th 2021. District Health Information System 2 (DHIS2) data from January 2018 to December 2020 for the Southwest region of Cameroon were analysed using simple linear regression on EPI Info 7.2 to determine a potential association of the sociopolitical crisis with timeliness and completeness of data. Qualitative data generated through in-depth interviews of key informants were coded and analyzed using NVivo 12. Results: During high conflict intensity (2018 and 2019), average data timeliness and completeness were 16.3% and 67.2%, respectively, increasing to 40.7% and 80.2%, respectively, in 2020 when the conflict intensity had reduced. There was a statistically significant weak correlation between reduced conflict intensity and increased data timeliness (R2 = 0.17, p = 0.016) and there was also a weak correlation between reduced conflict intensity and data completeness but this was not statistically significant (R2 = 0.01, p = 0.642). During high conflict intensity, the Kumba and Buea health districts had the highest data timeliness (17.2% and 96.2%, respectively) and data completeness (78.8% and 40.4%, respectively) possibly because of proximity to reporting sites and effective performance based financing. Components of IDSR that should be maintained included the electronic report aspect of the DHIS2 and the supportive supervision conducted during the outbreak. Staff demotivation, the parallel multiplicity of data entry tools, poor communication, shortage of staff and the non-usability of data generated by the DHIS2 were systemic challenges to the early alert dimension of the IDSR system. Non–systemic challenges included high levels of insecurity, far to reach outbreak sites and health personnel being targeted during the conflict. Conclusion: In general, routine IDSR data was not a reliable way of providing early warning of the 2018 cholera outbreak because of incomplete and late reports. Nonetheless, reduced conflict intensity correlated with increased timeliness and completeness of data reporting. The IDSR was substantially challenged during the crisis, and erroneous data generated by the DHIS 2 significantly undermined the efforts and resources invested to control the outbreak. The Ministry of Public Health should reinforce efforts to build a reporting system that produces people-centered actionable data that engages health risk management during socio-political crises.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages11
JournalConflict and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2023


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