Malnutrition: The Long Living Death-Trap of Ethiopian Children
Ethiopia faces many of the agonies faced by an underdeveloped country. However, with all the challenges out there, the country aspires to achieve many of the targets in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). For instance, the second goal of the SDG targets mentions that ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition shall be achieved by the year 2030. This seems a big encounter for Ethiopia. In that regard, a disparity between Ethiopia’s real condition and the SDG targets has been shown by a modelling study conducted by the National Data Management Centre for Health and National Information Platform for Nutrition, both under EPHI. The modelling study was a scenario based modelling conducted to assess the prevalence of stunting, wasting, and underweight among under-five children. Moreover it has given prediction on the future trends of these metrics in relation to the SDG and HSTP-II targets by the expected coverage of the interventions.
Methodologically, the study used datasets from the Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey (EDHS), United Nation (UN), and Global Burden of Disease 2019 (GBD-2019). In technical senses, it assumes three scenarios depending on the expected coverage of the interventions. The first scenario assumes moderate increments in most interventions for the years of 2024 and 2030; the second assumes a substantial increment in most interventions for the same years; and the third scenario assumes hypothetical increments which can help to ending of all forms of malnutrition including eliminating stunting, wasting, and underweight by 2030.
The findings of the modelling study show the following major results. First, the projected prevalence of stunting for 2025 is 30.2%. This is a 29.4% decrement compared to the prevalence in 2012, but still 10.63% lesser than the required international intermediate reduction target of 40%. In addition, the projected stunting prevalence for 2024 (HSTP-II) and 2030 are 31.3% and 24.8%, respectively. This indicates that Ethiopia is implausible to meet SDG and HSTP-II targets of reducing stunting to 25% and SDG target of ending all forms of malnutrition in the respective years if the trend continues. Besides, it has been found that 26.1%, 5.4%, 4.4% of under-five deaths were attributable to wasting, stunting, underweight, respectively. Also, malnutrition attributed to 21.3%, 12.9% and 1.6% of under-five deaths caused by diarrheal diseases, Lower Respiratory Infection (LRI) and measles, respectively. This clearly shows deaths from diarrheal and LRI will remain threats in Ethiopia unless severe and acute malnutrition in under-five are avoided.
Figure: Trends of malnutrition indicators in Ethiopia
To deal with these unwanted risks, the study has recommended some action points.
- Promoting, and supporting appropriate feeding practices for infant and young children is affirmative at any cost.
- Increasing access to WASH services, intensification of measures such as encouraging the use of family planning, and promoting and strengthening education for women are crucial tasks.
- Improving access to primary health care and strengthening the existing community-based platforms for nutrition education are vital to attaining an international target of ending all forms of malnutrition.