Constraints on good child-care practices and nutritional status in urban Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.Food Nutr Bull. 2006 Sep; 27(3):236-44.FN
Care is increasingly being recognized as a crucial input to child health and nutrition, along with food security, availability of health services, and a healthy environment. Although significant gains have been made in the fight against malnutrition in Tanzania, the nutritional status of preschool children in urban areas is not improving.
To assess child-care practices and the nutritional status of infants and young children with the aim of improvingfeeding practices and child nutritional status.
A cross-sectional study was undertaken in urban Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The study involved 100 randomly selected mothers of children 6 to 24 months old from households in Ilala Municipality, one of the three municipalities that constitute the Dar-es-Salaam City Council. Data were collected by a structured questionnaire, spot-check observations, and anthropometric measurements.
The prevalence rates of stunting, underweight, wasting, and morbidity were 43%, 22%, 3%, and 80%, respectively. The prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding was very low (9%), and most stunted children (88%) were not exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months. The mean age at which complementary foods and fluids were introduced was 3.26 +/- 1.12 months (range, 1 to 5 months). The fluids given were mainly water and thin cereal-based porridge. More than half of the households practiced good hygiene. Most of the psychosocial practices (e.g., caregiver's attention, affection, and involvement in child feeding, hygiene, health care, and training) were performed by mothers, except for cooking and feeding the children and child training, which were done mostly by alternative caregivers. Nearly half of the mothers (44%) worked out of the home. The mean number of working hours per day was long (10.32 +/- 2.13), necessitating the use of alternative caregivers. A negative correlation was found between height-for-age z-scores and the number of hours mothers worked outside the home.
The prevalence rates of chronic malnutrition and morbidity are high, and child-feeding practices are inadequate in this urban population. Maternal employment and educational characteristics constrain good child-care practices, and alternative caregivers are taking a more important role in child care as mothers join the work force. We recommend that formative research be conducted to study the actual practices of caregivers in order to form the basis for a child-care education program. There is also a need to strengthen national health system support for improved child feeding.