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BACKGROUND: Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) alone contributed to 42% of global stillbirths in 2019, and the rate of stillbirth reduction has remained slow. There has been an increased uptake of community-based interventions to combat stillbirth in the region, but the effects of these interventions have been poorly assessed. Our objectives were to examine the effect of community-based interventions on stillbirth in SSA. METHODS: In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched eight databases (MEDLINE [OvidSP], Embase [OvidSP], Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Global Health, Science Citation Index and Social Science Citation index [Web of Science Core Collection], CINAHL [EBSCOhost] and Global Index Medicus) and four grey literature sources from January 1, 2000 to July 7, 2023 for relevant studies from SSA. Community-based interventions targeting stillbirths solely or as part of complex interventions, with or without hospital interventions were included, while hospital-only interventions, microcredit schemes and maternity waiting home interventions were excluded. Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's tools. The study outcome was odds of stillbirth in intervention versus control communities. Pooled odds ratios (ORs) were estimated using random-effects models, and subgroup analyses were performed by intervention type and strategies. Publication bias was evaluated by funnel plot and Egger's test. This study is registered with PROSPERO, CRD42021296623. FINDINGS: Of the 4223 records identified, seventeen studies from fifteen SSA countries were eligible for inclusion. One study had four arms (community only, hospital only, community and hospital, and control arms), so information was extracted from each arm. Analysis of 13 of the 17 studies which had community-only intervention showed that the odds of stillbirth did not vary significantly between community-based intervention and control groups (OR 0.96; 95% CI 0.78-1.17, I2 = 57%, p ≤ 0.01, n = 63,884). However, analysis of four (out of five) studies that included both community and health facility components found that in comparison with community only interventions, this combination strategy significantly reduced the odds of stillbirth by 17% (OR 0.83; 95% CI 0.79-0.87, I2 = 11%, p = 0.37, n = 244,868), after excluding a study with high risk of bias. The quality of the 17 studies were graded as poor (n = 2), fair (n = 9) and good (n = 6). INTERPRETATION: Community-based interventions alone, without strengthening the quality and capacity of health facilities, are unlikely to have a substantial effect on reducing stillbirths in SSA. FUNDING: Nuffield Department of Population Health, Balliol College, the Clarendon Fund, Medical Research Council.

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Community-based intervention, Effectiveness, Fetal death, Stillbirth, Sub-Saharan Africa