INTRODUCTION: Sub-Saharan Africa has low Caesarean (CS) levels, despite a global increase in CS use. In conflict settings, the pattern of CS use is unclear because of scanty data. We aimed to examine the opportunity of using routine facility data to describe the CS use in conflict settings.
METHODS: We conducted a facility-based cross-sectional study in 8 health zones (HZ) of South Kivu province in eastern DR Congo. We reviewed patient hospital records, maternity registers and operative protocol books, from January to December 2018. Data on direct conflict fatalities were obtained from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program. Based on conflict intensity and chronicity (expressed as a 6-year cumulative conflict death rate), HZ were classified as unstable (higher conflict death rate), intermediate and stable (lower conflict death rate). To describe the Caesarean section practice, we used the Robson classification system. Based on parity, history of previous CS, onset of labour, foetal lie and presentation, number of neonates and gestational age, the Robson classification categorises deliveries into 10 mutually exclusive groups. We performed a descriptive analysis of the relative contribution of each Robson group to the overall CS rate in the conflict stratum.
RESULTS: Among the 29,600 deliveries reported by health facilities, 5,520 (18.6%) were by CS; 5,325 (96.5%) records were reviewed, of which 2,883 (54.1%) could be classified. The overall estimated population CS rate was 6.9%. The proportion of health facility deliveries that occurred in secondary hospitals was much smaller in unstable health zones (22.4%) than in intermediate (40.25) or stable health zones (43.0%). Robson groups 5 (previous CS, single cephalic, ≥ 37 weeks), 1 (nulliparous, single cephalic, ≥ 37 weeks, spontaneous labour) and 3 (multiparous, no previous CS, single cephalic, ≥ 37 weeks, spontaneous labour) were the leading contributors to the overall CS rate; and represented 75% of all CS deliveries. In unstable zones, previous CS (27.1%) and abnormal position of the fetus (breech, transverse lie, 3.3%) were much less frequent than in unstable and intermediate (44.3% and 6.0% respectively) and stable (46.7%and 6.2% respectively). Premature delivery and multiple pregnancy were more prominent Robson groups in unstable zones.
CONCLUSION: In South Kivu province, conflict exposure is linked with an uneven estimated CS rate at HZ level with at high-risks women in conflict affected settings likely to have lower access to CS compared to low-risk mothers in stable health zones.