Investigation of the factors associated with undernutrition among children under 5 years in Engela district hospital, Ohangwena region, Namibia

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University of Namibia
Undernutrition as a problem in sub-Saharan Africa is a strong indicator of retarded growth, and leads to more than 30% of deaths in children under five annually (Mtambo, Katoma, & Kazembe, 2016). Namibia has almost twice the percentage of moderately undernourished children and three times the percentage of severely undernourished children than what is expected for a country with its level of economic development (Sengupta & Syamala, 2013). Undernutrition is a physical state whereby an individual has a low weight for their age or height. This often leads to various forms of impaired bodily performance, which hinders normal physical activity, growth and resistance to diseases recovery. The Demographic Health Survey (DHS) conducted in Namibia (2008-2013) revealed that Ohangwena is amongst the regions that have a high prevalence of undernutrition. Engela district has a high number of undernutrition cases in the region according to the Health Information System reports. A case-control study was conducted at Engela district hospital, to determine socio-economic, nutritional and medical related risk factors for Undernutrition in children aged 6 months to 5 years. The researcher administered a structured questionnaire to the parents and guardians of children to collect data on the aforementioned risk factors. The study found an association between starting complementary feeding at the age of four to five months and developing undernutrition. Furthermore, children who were not taken care of and fed by mothers were 2.0 times more likely to develop undernutrition. The study also revealed an association between being born at home and developing undernutrition. The study also showed statistically significant associations between the child immunization status, caregivers’ employment status and attendance of growth monitoring and the development of undernutrition in children. However the mother’s age, caregivers’ educational level, breastfeeding and staying with the mother or not staying with the mother were not associated with being undernourished. The researcher recommended mothers to create employment opportunities for themselves, to delay complementary feeding at least until the child is 6 months where possible, to care for their children until they are 5 years and older, strengthen the importance of hospital deliveries, strengthen the importance of growth monitoring attendance at health facilities and to strengthen immunizations for children and health education to mothers and expectant mothers.
A thesis submitted in accordance with the partial fulfilment of the Degree of Master in Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Management