Analysis of the relationship between household livestock keeping and malnutrition of under-five years children in rural parts of Eastern Province of Zambia
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The levels of malnutrition in Zambia are some of the highest in Africa with 51.9% of children less than 5 years of age undernourished. The prevalence of the wasting form of malnutrition is 6%, with Eastern province having the third highest prevalence of stunting in the country, only better than Luapula and Central provinces. At the same time, Eastern province is among the provinces with the highest number of livestock in the country. A case-control study was conducted in Chipata, Chadiza and Lundazi districts of the Eastern Province of Zambia to determine whether there was a relationship between livestock keeping at household level and presence of malnutrition in under-five years aged children. Two sampling frames one for cases (malnourished children) and the other for controls were generated from the health centre under-five years of age children’s registers. The sampled malnourished children were confirmed by use of the Mid Upper Arm Circumference tape and presence of odema. A household was considered as keeping livestock if it had one or a combination of the following: two or more cattle, six or more goats and sheep, fifteen or more full grown birds such chickens. A questionnaire was used to capture all the data on hypothesised risk factors. Fisher's exact test was used to determine associations between categorical variables and binary logistic regression analysis was used to determine predictors of malnutrition among under-five years aged children. All statistics were considered significant at p≤0.05. One hundred and forty-five households were sampled using systematic sampling method, of these ninety seven were controls and forty eight were cases. About 72.4% (95% C.I = 63.9 – 81.0%) of households in the study area kept livestock. Although the percentage of households that kept livestock among the cases was slightly lower (31.4%, 95% CI = 22.5 – 40.3%) than among the control (68.6%, 95% CI = 57.9 - 59.3%), livestock keeping alone was not significantly associated with the reduction of malnutrition in under-five years children (p=0.243). Crop farming alone was also found not to be significantly associated with the reduction malnutrition of under-five children at household level (p = 0.447). However, mixed farming (growing crops and keeping livestock) at households level was found to be significantly associated with the low malnutrition levels in the under-five years children (p = 0.008). The percentage of household who practiced mixed farming among the case was lower (31.6%, 95% CI = 17.7 – 45.5%) than those among the controls 68.3% (95% CI = 59.1 - 77.5%). Other variables that were found to be significantly associated with low malnutrition level in under-five years aged children in the study area were birth interval of the siblings and the number of children in the household. It is, therefore, recommended that households in Eastern province should be encouraged to do mixed farming, reduce the number of children they bear and also increased child spacing.
- Veterinary Medicine