Introduction: Undernutrition is a serious global health issue, and stunting is a key indicator of children's nutritional status which results from long-term deprivation of basic needs. Ethiopia, the largest and most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa, has the greatest rate of stunting among children under the age of five, yet the problem is unevenly distributed across the country. Thus, we investigate spatial heterogeneity and explore spatial projection of stunting among under-five children. Further, spatial predictors of stunting were assessed using geospatial regression models.
Methods: The Ethiopia Demographic and Health Surveys (EDHS) data from 2011, 2016, and 2019 were examined using a geostatistical technique that took into account spatial autocorrelation. Ordinary kriging was used to interpolate stunting data, and Kulldorff spatial scan statistics were used to identify spatial clusters with high and low stunting prevalence. In spatial regression modeling, the ordinary least square (OLS) model was employed to investigate spatial predictors of stunting and to examine local spatial variations geographically weighted regression (GWR) and multiscale geographically weighted regression (MGWR) models were employed.
Results: Overall, stunting prevalence was decreased from 44.42% [95%, CI: 0.425-0.444] in 2011 to 36.77% [95%, CI: 0.349-0.375] in 2019. Across three waves of EDHS, clusters with a high prevalence of stunting in children under 5 years were consistently observed in northern Ethiopia stretching in Tigray, Amhara, Afar, and Benishangul-Gumuz. Another area of very high stunting incidence was observed in the Southern parts of Ethiopia and the Somali region of Ethiopia. Our spatial regression analysis revealed that the observed geographical variation of under-five stunting significantly correlated with poor sanitation, poor wealth index, inadequate diet, residency, and mothers' education.
Conclusions: In Ethiopia, substantial progress has been made in decreasing stunting among children under the age of 5 years; although disparities varied in some areas and districts between surveys, the pattern generally remained constant over time. These findings suggest a need for region and district-specific policies where priority should be given to children in areas where most likely to exhibit high-risk stunting.
Keywords: Chronic malnutrition; Ethiopia; Geographically weighted regression (GWR); Geospatial; Multiscale geographically weighted regression (MGWR); Spatial; Stunting; Under-five children.
© 2022. The Author(s).