Maternal perceptions of factors contributing to severe under-nutrition among children in a rural African setting

Abubakar, Amina and Holding, P. and Mwangome, M. and Maitland, K. (2011) Maternal perceptions of factors contributing to severe under-nutrition among children in a rural African setting. Rural and Remote Health, 11 (1). ISSN 1445-6354

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INTRODUCTION: In developing countries, severe undernutrition in early childhood is associated with increased mortality and morbidity, and 10-40% of hospital admissions. The current study aimed to elicit maternal perceptions of factors that contribute to severe undernutrition among children in a rural Kenyan community in order to identify appropriate and acceptable targeted interventions. METHODS: The study consisted of 10 focus group discussions (FGDs) of between eight and ten mothers each, in a rural coastal community in Kenya. A grounded theory approach was used to analyse the FGD data. RESULTS: In all FGDs 'financial constraints' was the main reason given for severe undernutrition of children. The mothers reported the additional factors of inadequate food intake, ill health, inadequate care of children, heavy workload for mothers, inadequate control of family resources by women and a lack of resources for generating income for the family. The mothers also reported their local cultural belief that severe malnutrition was due to witchcraft and the violation of sexual taboos. CONCLUSIONS: The mothers in the study community recognised multiple aetiologies for severe undernutrition. A multidisciplinary approach is needed address the range of issues raised and so combat severe undernutrition. Suggested interventions include poverty alleviation, medical education and psychosocial strategies. The content and approach of any program must address the need for variability, determined by individual and local needs, concerns, attitudes and beliefs.

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Journal Article
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Rural and Remote Health
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28 Nov 2014 12:58
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 01:20