Determinants of Child Malnutrition in Changazi Ward in Chimanimani District, Zimbabwe

By Rusinga, Oswell; Moyo, Stanzia | Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Determinants of Child Malnutrition in Changazi Ward in Chimanimani District, Zimbabwe


Rusinga, Oswell, Moyo, Stanzia, Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies


Abstract

Child nutritional status has been deteriorating in Zimbabwe since the early 1990s due to biological, behavioural, socio-economic, political and physical factors. A survey was used to carry out the study. A triangulation of quantitative and qualitative methods was used to ascertain the level and underlying factors of child malnutrition. A sample of 222 children under five years was determined for the anthropometric measurements. A total of 222 questionnaires were administered to caregivers of the sampled children. Qualitative data were collected using focus group discussions and in-depth interviews. The study noted high levels of chronic child malnutrition in the area. Insufficient food at the household level was the most important underlying factor of child malnutrition and had detrimental repercussions on dietary intake and diversity. The meals consumed by children were dominated by thick porridge (sadza) and green vegetables. The nutritional status of these children was being severed by high prevalence of infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.

Keywords: child malnutrition, diet, diseases, infection, food insecurity, feeding

INTRODUCTION

Notwithstanding improvements in nutrition worldwide, child malnutrition continues to be a major public health problem in developing countries as one third of all children under five years are malnourished (de Onis et al., 2000). The proportion of malnourished children remains substantially high in most parts of the developing world except in Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the Population Reference Bureau [PRB] (2007), the levels of underweight children remain substantially high in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa; estimated at 27% and 26%, respectively. The proportion of underweight children is comparatively low in Latin America and the Caribbean; estimated at 5% in 2007. Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Surveys (1988, 1994, 1999 and 2005-06) have shown that levels of malnutrition among children under five years had been increasing in the past two decades (Figure 1). For example, the prevalence of stunted children under five years increased from 21% in 1994 to 34% in 2010 (Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey 2005-06; Food and Nutrition Council and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, 2010). The deterioration of child nutritional status gave rise to significant increases in nutritional deficiencies related diseases and exacerbating the spread of communicable diseases among children under five years (Food and Nutrition Council and Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, 2010). The Government of Zimbabwe (2004) noted that about 34% of early childhood deaths in Zimbabwe are related to undernutrition.

MThe pervasiveness of child malnutrition in Zimbabwe is an embodiment of the weakening of socio-economic, political and traditional systems which take care of children. According to the Zimbabwe Human Development Report [ZHDR] (1998), the deterioration of child nutritional status in the last decade is mainly attributed to persistent inequalities and poverty in the general population; fall in real incomes and HIV and AIDS. The report further noted that the consistent pattern of child malnutrition in Zimbabwe is inextricably related much to persistent inequalities than to drought and other natural disasters. The programmes implemented since 1980 were more effective in the short run but marginally solved the underlying problems of poverty and inequalities which are still prevalent. For instance, after the Government of Zimbabwe adopted the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in 1991, the per capita expenditure on health dropped from Z$16.50 in 1990/91 to Z$10.92 in 1993/94 thereby negatively affecting health care by raising cost-barriers to access to care, reducing use of preventive services or early treatment and making it difficult to deal with the rise of ill-health caused by declining incomes and HIV and AIDS (ZHDR, 1998). …

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