A restrospective study of the nutritional status of primary school children in Harare
Malnourished children may grow up to become adults with reduced physical and cognitive capacity. Knowledge of trends of children?s nutritional status over time is important to raise awareness, guide resource allocation as well as develop nutrition-related interventions for communities. A retrospective study was conducted in Harare using data collected and compiled by the Harare City Council Nutrition Unit. Trends of nutritional status of primary school children in high density areas of Harare were examined in relation to stunting and wasting. All anthropometric data generated from 2003 to 2011 by the Harare Nutrition Unit were analysed. Age was calculated by subtracting the date of birth from the date of interview. The Z-scores for height-for-age (HAZ), and weight-for-height (WHZ) were calculated using the National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS) standards. Children with HAZ and WHZ less than -2 SD from the median reference population were considered stunted and wasted, respectively. The least squares method was used to determine the strength of outcome change measures over time. A decrease in stunting was observed from a prevalence of 10.2% to 7.4% over the period 2003 to 2011 in males (R2 = 0.13), and from 7.8% to 4.4% in females (R2 = 0.29) over the same period. Wasting in both males and females was on a slower decrease starting only from the year 2007 to 2009 (R2 = 0.11) for males and (R2 = 0.05) for females. There has been an increase in wasting in recent years from 2009 to 2011 in males (2.7-4.6%) and females (3.1-3.6%). More males among primary school children are both wasted and stunted than females. The results demonstrate a decreasing prevalence in stunting in primary school children but there is an increase in prevalence of wasting in primary school children. Interventions to curb the rise in wasting in primary school children in Harare?s high density areas are warranted such as resuscitation of school nutrition gardens, school feeding program and health education.