Malnutrition being one of the major public health problems in developing countries, it is still unacceptably high and progress to reduce it in most regions of the world is low. In Eastern Africa region, stunting and being underweight is estimated at 48 and 36% and are expected to increase over the next decade. There is limited information available on the prevalence of malnutrition in this area. This study determined nutritional status, and examined correlates of stunting among the children. This was a cross-sectional study undertaken among 125 preschoolers in western province, drawn from 37 clusters. For each cluster a total of 10 households were selected using systematic simple random sampling. Data were collected on nutritional status, socioeconomic status, food consumption and current malaria infection status. The prevalence of stunting (Z-scores for height for age [HAZ] <-2), wasting (Z-scores for weight for height [WHZ] < -2) and being underweight (Z-scores for weight for age [WAZ] < -2) was 28.9, 1.7 and 6.6%, respectively. Stunting was associated with poverty (OR=4.29, 95% CI: 1.06-17.36, p= 0.037) and lack of consumption of solid foods that include ripe mangoes, pawpaw and guavas (OR=3.15, 95% CI: 1.11-8.94, p=0.025), fish (OR=4.1, 95% CI: 1.15-14.61, p=0.021) and eggs (OR=4.42, 95% CI: 0.97-20.08, p=0.039). Child growth is a good indicator of nutritional status of both the individual and the community. The study demonstrates a high prevalence of stunting. Given the acute and long term consequences of malnutrition, interventions aimed at reducing child malnutrition in such a population should focus on all children less than 5 years of age.
Key words: Stunting, underweight, wasting, preschool children.
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