A cross-sectional study design with descriptive and analytical components is employed to study 144 sampled households with under 5 children drawn from four purposefully selected kebeles of Habru and Kobo weredas, in North Wollo zone of the Amahra Region during February 2003.
The objectives of the study are to determine the level of malnutrition, estimate the level of caloric and micronutrient consumption and identify potential barriers and factors that currently influence the nutrition of the communities in North Wollo.
Anthropometric data and data on socio-demographic characteristics, food consumption, child feeding practices and morbidity status are collected from all sampled households and analyzed.
Results show the prevalence of stunting, underweight and wasting to be 44.5%, 35.0% and 9.0% respectively. Stunting, underweight and wasting are higher in male than female children. The overall malnutrition rate of parents is 16.8% and 22.7% for fathers and mothers respectively.
The mean duration of breast-feeding is 22.4 months. Most of the mothers reported to feed colostrums and give pre-lacteal feeding of butter/water to the newborn. Both early and delayed weaning practices are common. In most cases, the types of food offered are made from a single food group, solely cereal based.
The staple food, Injera made from sorghum, teff and barley, is consumed by 97% of the households. The calorie and nutrient intake is below the recommended daily allowances. The consumption pattern of animal foods, vegetables and fruits is apparently very low. Many households have a preferential allocation of food to adult men (51.4%) at the expense of adult women and children. Food taboos are also practiced among few households during pregnancy and childhood.
Food shortage is reported in 41.0% of the households with a mean duration of 2.8 months, most pronounced during the pre-harvest period.
The major illnesses mentioned in the area are malaria, diarrhea, respiratory problems and STDs, including HIV/AIDS.
A range of socio-economic, demographic, environmental and cultural barriers is found to influence the nutritional status of children in the area. These include shortage of farmland, lack of irrigation, dispossession of livestock, shortage of non-farm employment options, parental illiteracy and high number of children, water inadequacy, food taboos and wrong eating habits of families. Moreover, poor child feeding practices, deprivation of health/nutrition education as well as maternal attributes such as young motherhood, low BMI and short stature of mothers are also potential factors affecting children’s nutrition.
Therefore this study led to the conclusion that improvement of household resources through promotion of irrigation and initiation of income generating livelihood options is needed. In addition, strong and sustainable health and nutrition education towards appropriate child feeding, eradication of harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and inequitable intra-household food distribution, encouragement of family planning and nutrition interventions including food diversification is recommended.