Improving the nutritional situation of children in Burkina Faso
Health indicators improved and the mortality rate fell between 1993 and 2003 from 187 per 1000 to 183 per 1000. Despite these gains, however the mortality rate for children aged 0-5 years remains too high at 185 deaths per 1000 live births. The mortality rate for children under 1 is 83 per 1000.
Demographic and health surveys (DHS) carried out in 1993, 1998 and 2003 indicate that the nutritional situation of children is critical, with the tendency to deteriorate during certain periods of the year. Acute malnutrition (the weight-height ratio) ranges from 13% when food is in abundance (see DHS1993 for further information) to 19% during the lean season (see also DHS 2003 for further report).
An additional analysis of the nutritional data of the last three DHS was carried out by the National Nutrition Department, with the technical and financial support of the World Bank, the World Food Programme, UNICEF and the Research and Development Institute (IRD).This analysis concluded that the prevalence of failure to thrive (height and weight measurements) increased significantly between 1998 and 2003 (by as much as 38.6%). The same trend was recorded in the low birth weights of children under five.
The root causes of chronic, severe and widespread malnutrition were found to be: the level of education of mothers; bad weaning practices; the fragile health condition of children, particularly due to frequent occurrences of fevers (malaria) and/or diarrheas; and poor access to drinking water.
In Burkina Faso, only 19% of children under six months are exclusively breastfed, while 38% of 6-9 month-old children are given supplementary foods (see UNICEF State of the World's Children 2006 - Statistical tables/table 2 : Nutrition). The prevalence of diarrhea is estimated at 21%--only 37% of these cases were treated with oral rehydration salts or other home made solutions.
Other surveys point out bad eating habits among pregnant women, which worsen their nutritional condition, and go on to affect the unborn child. This partly explains the high prevalence of low birth weight in Burkina Faso (18%).
Vitamin A, iodine and iron deficiencies are the main micronutrient lacks that particularly affect women and children in Burkina Faso. The rate of night blindness – a disease caused by vitamin A deficiency--is over 1%.
Recent figures on vitamin A deficiency in Burkina Faso are not available. Yet, based on surveys conducted in some regions over the past fifteen years, vitamin A deficiency is thought to be still endemic in seven health districts. The overall high malnutrition levels have led to the conclusion that vitamin A deficiency affects the whole country.
As far as iodine deficiency is concerned, goitre prevalence in the 1980s and 1990s was over 10% in about 20 of 30 thirty provinces. According to the 2003 DHS, 45% of Burkinabe households now have access to the adequately iodized salt.
Iron deficiency affects 92% of children under five (see DHS 2003), while more than 40% (Centre national de nutrition, 1999) of pregnant women have hemoglobin rates below the average. Of this amount 60% suffer from moderate anemia, and 13% from severe anemia. Children aged between six months and two years are the most affected by iron deficiency, probably because they do not receive adequate supplementary feeding.