Water, hygiene and sanitation practices are associated with stunting among children of age 24-59 months in Lemo district, South Ethiopia, in 2021: community based cross sectional study

BMC Nutr. 2023 Jan 23;9(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s40795-023-00677-1.


Background: Stunting among children of ages 24-59 months is a major public health challenge in developing countries. It has been linked with poor water quality, water accessibility, a lack of environmental sanitation, and personal hygiene (WASH) practices, particularly in food-insecure areas. Stunting occurs during certain seasons in food-insecure settings. Therefore, a complete understanding of risk factors is the first step in the development of a preventive strategy. However, information is scarce about the prevalence and factors associated with stunting among children of ages 24-59 months in these settings.

Objective: This study aimed to assess the prevalence of and factors associated with stunting among children aged 24-59 months in Lemo district, south Ethiopia, in 2021.

Methods: A community based cross-sectional study was conducted from January 1-30/2021. Data were collected from a total of 415 randomly selected children and mother /guardian/. Logistic regression analysis was done to identify factors associated with childhood stunting. In binary logistic regression analysis, independent variables with p-value < 0.25 were fitted into multivariable logistic regression analysis to explore final predictors of stunting/ thinness/. Independent variables with AOR and 95% CI and P-value < 0.05 was computed and reported as predictors of stunting among children in this study.

Results: From a total of 450 children, only 415 were included in the final analysis, making a response rate of 92.2%. The prevalence of stunting among children was 33.5% (95% CI: 30.4 and 36.6%) in this study. Children ages 48-59 months (AOR = 2.8, 95% CI: 2.1, 12.1), children ages 36-47 months (AOR = 1.6, 95% CI: 1.1, 7.1), children of uneducated women (AOR = 1.8, 95% CI: 1.5, 4.2), children who lived near unimproved toilets (AOR = 1.7, 95% CI: 1.2, 2.6), children whose feces was disposed of unsafely (AOR = 2.8, 95% CI: 1.57, 5.31), and children whose mothers did not wash their hands before feeding their children (AOR = 6.2, 95% CI: 2.0, 19.1) were factors positively associated with stunting among children aged 24 months to 59 months.

Conclusion: The prevalence of stunting is high compared with the national prevalence of stunting in food insecure areas. Policy makers, local leaders, and community health extension workers should enhance environmental sanitation and create awareness about personal hygiene. Furthermore, improved toilet construction and appropriate utilization should be encouraged. Furthermore, the local government should work to improve the socio-economic status of poor households.

Keywords: Children; Food insecure; Hygiene; Sanitation; Stunting; Water.