Malnutrition is a public health problem of significant importance in developing countries. The main aim of this survey is to assess the nutritional status of children of the Beta-Israel community in Gondar, Ethiopia, with special emphasis on the anthropometric growth patterns of infants under 5 years of age.
This is a descriptive cross-sectional survey of 794 preschool children of the Beta-Israel community. The survey comprised socioeconomic and demographic data, evaluation of anthropometric measurements, and clinical evaluation of children for nutrition-related health problems. The clinical variables included assessments for vitamin A, iodine, and iron deficiencies.
Underweight, stunting, and wasting were seen in 14.6%, 37.2%, and 4.5% of the children, respectively. Moreover, severe underweight, severe stunting, and severe wasting were seen in 2.9%, 14.8%, and 0.5% of the children, respectively. Malnutrition affected 41.4% of all the children, with those 12-23 months old suffering the most (66.7%). Multivariate analysis noted that smaller family size and younger age were related to higher occurrence of malnutrition among children. An overall rate of stunting of 37.2% exceeds the urban average rate for Ethiopia (29.8%). All the children had been breastfed at least for some time, and among those older than 6 months, 46.8% were exclusively breastfed for 6 months. Of the infants, 82.9% were breastfed for over 2 years. No correlation existed with pattern or duration of breastfeeding and degree of malnutrition in infants over 6 months.
The urban Beta-Israel Jewish pediatric population in Gondar, Ethiopia suffers from a high rate of malnutrition manifested primarily by stunting (height for age), reflecting a state of chronic malnutrition after 6 months of life secondary to inadequate sources of complementary feeds for the breastfeeding infant.