A Door-to-Door Effort to Find Out Who Died Helps Low-Income Countries Aid the Living

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FUNKOYA, Sierra Leone — Augustine Alpha begins gently. “Who lives in this home?” he asks the young man, who has come in from the fields to answer his questions.

Your name? Age? Religion? Marital status? In what grade did you leave school? Do you own a bicycle? Mr. Alpha taps the young man’s answers into the laptop perched on his thin knees.

Then comes the key question: “Did anyone die in your home in the last two years?”

“Yes,” the young man says, “my mother.”

Mr. Alpha expresses his sympathy, asks him her name — it was Mabinti Kamara — then plunges in: Was she sick? How long? Fever? Rising and falling, or steady? Vomiting? Diarrhea? Tremors? Did she see a doctor? Get medication? Have pain? Where was the pain, and how long did it last?