Childhood Stunting and Wasting Following Independence in South Sudan

Food Nutr Bull. 2022 Dec;43(4):381-394. doi: 10.1177/03795721221128126. Epub 2022 Oct 17.


Background: South Sudan has experienced ongoing civil and environmental problems since gaining independence in 2011 that may influence childhood nutritional status.

Objective: To estimate the prevalence of undernutrition among children in South Sudan in 2018 and 2019 compared to the prevalence in 2010.

Methods: Data on height and weight were collected using a 2-stage stratified sample framework in which households were randomly selected at the county level and nutritional status was calculated for all children under 5 years of age to determine height-for-age, weight-for-height, and weight-for-age Z-scores (HAZ, WHZ, and WAZ) and the prevalence of stunting, wasting, and underweight. Linear and logistic regression analyses were used to determine factors associated with nutritional status and the odds ratio for nutritional outcomes.

Results: In 2010, the mean HAZ, WHZ, and WAZ was -0.78, -0.82, and -1.15, respectively, and the prevalence of stunting, wasting, and underweight was 30%, 23%, and 32%, respectively. In 2018 and 2019, the mean HAZ, WHZ, and WAZ was -0.50, -0.70, -0.77 and -0.53, -0.77, -0.76, respectively. The prevalence of stunting, wasting, and underweight in 2018 and 2019 was 17%, 14%, 15% and 16%, 16%, 17%, respectively. Age was negatively associated with all nutritional indices and girls had higher HAZ, WHZ, and WAZ and a lower mid upper arm circumference (P < .01) compared to boys. The risk of poor nutritional outcomes was associated with vaccine status and varied by state of residence.

Conclusions: Following independence in 2010, the prevalence of undernutrition in South Sudan decreased, but the risk for undernutrition varied by state and efforts to address food security and health need to ensure equitable access for all children in South Sudan.

Keywords: South Sudan; children; nutritional status; stunting; wasting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Malnutrition* / epidemiology
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prevalence
  • South Sudan / epidemiology
  • Thinness* / epidemiology