Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among children under the age of 5 years in low and middle income countries like Nepal. Children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) are nine times more likely to die than children without malnutrition. The prevalence of SAM has increased in Nepal over the past 15 years; however, the determinants of SAM have not been clearly assessed in the country.
To assess the determinants of SAM among children aged 6–59 months in the Bara district of Nepal.
A community-based case–control study was conducted in 12 randomly selected Village Development Committees (VDCs) of the Bara district of Nepal.
A random sample of 292 children aged 6–59 months (146 as cases and 146 as controls) from 12 VDCs were included in this study.
The prevalence of SAM among children under the age of 5 years was 4.14%. The following factors were significantly associated with SAM: low socioeconomic status (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 17.13, 95% CI 5.85 to 50.13); mother’s age at birth <20 or >35 years (AOR 3.21, 95% CI 1.30 to 7.94); birth interval <24 months (AOR 4.09, 95% CI 1.87 to 8.97); illiterate father (AOR 3.65, 95% CI 1.62 to 8.20); bottle feeding (AOR 2.19, 95% CI 1.73 to 12.03); and not initiating complementary feeding at the age of 6 months (AOR 2.91, 95% CI 1.73 to 12.03). Mother’s educational level, initiation of breastfeeding, colostrum feeding, and exclusive breastfeeding were not significantly associated with SAM.
The mother's age at birth, birth interval, socioeconomic status, father’s educational level and initiation of complementary feeding at the age of 6 months were important determinants of SAM among children. A multi-sector approach is essential to address SAM. There is a need for further studies not only focusing on SAM but also moderate acute malnutrition.