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Highest Child Malnutrition Rates Amongst Poorest Families in Botswana


Gaborone, Botswana, 16 May 2012   Household survey data shows that stunting among under-five year-olds is twice as high among children in the poorest households than those in the richest.  Stunting is a strong indicator of inadequate child growth and development, reflecting chronic lack of nutrition, care and general health. 

National household surveys are routinely conducted by Central Statistics Office Botswana and they track progress against basic nutrition indicators.  In recent years, these have included the Multiple Indicator Cluster/ Botswana Family Health Survey (BFHS) series, generating data for 2000 and 2007 (CSO, 2001 and 2009). 

While the survey reports have valuable national data on child nutrition indicators, they rarely disaggregate indicators to facilitate a full appreciation of the distribution of child nutrition indicators across various socio-demographic factors and geographic areas.  

In order to make greater use of the survey data, the Government of Botswana with support from UNICEF, reanalyzed the data and produced an analytical report on child malnutrition, looking also at the determinants and the dynamics between variables influencing child malnutrition in Botswana.  

The report shows not only significant differences between children depending on where they live (rural or urban and also district by district), but also according to the wealth (assets) of the household.  It shows that household wealth is an important determinant of child nutritional status, and is strongly associated with differences in infant feeding practices, use of iodized salt, coverage of vitamin A supplementation and receipt of Tsabana (a supplementary food designed for children under-five years old).  

Children in the lowest quintile (the poorest 20% of households) are significantly more stunted (i.e. severely or moderately short for their age) and underweight (severely or moderately underweight for their age), compared to their age mates in the highest quintile (the richest 20% of households).  The prevalence of severe and moderate stunting in 2007 in the lowest quintile was 19.4% and 16.9% respectively compared to 10.5% and 11.5% for those in the highest quintile.  A similar pattern was observed for underweight children.

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The report clearly reaffirms that children do not all have the same life chances.  Interventions by Ministry of Health and other development partners to address these inequalities require data that is disaggregated.  Responses need to be tailored to address these differences and specific bottlenecks in service delivery, use and impact on child health and development.   

Statistics Botswana is encouraged to further engage a wide range of information users in the design of future surveys with a nutrition component in every stage: survey design, development of data collection instruments, data collection, analysis and interpretation.  According to this report, this will ensure that the data collected supports the tracking of progress towards key national and international targets and the data to appropriately manage and fine-tune existing nutrition programmes.




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