Background: Chronic childhood malnutrition, or stunting, remains a persistent barrier to achieve optimal cognitive development, child growth and ability to reach full potential. Almost half of children under-five years of age are stunted in the province of Sindh, Pakistan.
Objective: The primary objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that the provision of lipid-based nutrient supplement-medium-quantity (LNS-MQ) known as Wawamum will result in a 10% reduction in risk of being stunted at the age of 24 months in the intervention group compared with the control group.
Design: A cluster randomized controlled trial was conducted in Thatta and Sujawal districts of Sindh province, Pakistan. A total of 870 (419 in intervention; 451 in control) children between 6-18 months old were enrolled in the study. The unit of randomization was union council and considered as a cluster. A total of 12 clusters, 6 in each study group were randomly assigned to intervention and control group. All children received standard government health services, while children in the intervention group also received 50 grams/day of Wawamum.
Results: Children who received Wawamum were found to have a significantly reduced risk of stunting (RR = 0.91, 95% CI; 0.88-0.94, p<0.001) and wasting (RR = 0.78, 95% CI; 0.67-0.92, p = 0.004) as compared to children who received the standard government health services. There was no evidence of a reduction in the risk of underweight (RR = 0.94, 95% CI; 0.85-1.04, p = 0.235) in the intervention group compared to the control group. Statistically significant reduction in anaemia in the intervention group was also found as compared to the control group (RR = 0.97, 95% CI; 0.94-0.99, p = 0.042). The subgroup analysis by age, showed intervention effect is significant in reduction of risk of stunting in younger children of aged 6-12 month (RR = 0.83, 95% CI; 0.81-0.86, p = <0.001) and their older peers aged 13-18 month- (RR = 0.90, 95% CI; 0.83-0.97, p = 0.008). The mean compliance of Wawamum was 60% among children.
Conclusions: The study confirmed that the provision of Wawamum to children 6-23 months of age is effective in reducing the risk of stunting, wasting and anaemia. This approach should be scaled up among the most food insecure areas/households with a high prevalence of stunting to achieve positive outcomes for nutrition and health. This study was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02422953. Clinical Trial Registration Number: NCT02422953.