A food-based approach to reduce vitamin a deficiency in southern Ethiopia: a cross-sectional study of maternal nutrition and health indicators
One micronutrient essential for proper growth and development is Vitamin A. Children and pregnant women are most susceptible to vitamin A deficiency (VAD) because of the higher intake requirements needed during critical growth periods. Vitamin A deficiency is a serious but preventable public health problem in Ethiopia. In 2012, the International Potato Center (CIP) partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) and local stakeholders in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR), Ethiopia, to address the issue of VAD among rural SNNPR households by increasing production and consumption of orange fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP). This paper presents a cross-sectional analysis of vitamin A knowledge, consumption practices, and OFSP agronomic practices from surveys conducted among households who participated in a food-based intervention. The study population consisted of 150 mothers from rural households in five districts in the Sidama and Wolayta zones in the SNNPR. Data were collected during April and May 2013 by trained enumerators in the local language using structured questionnaires. Surveys were adapted from validated instruments, and included questions about household socioeconomic characteristics, agricultural practices, dietary diversity, food security, and general health for women between 20-60 years and children between 6-59 months. Among respondents, 63% of mothers reported knowledge about vitamin A, with responses varying by geographic location. Among those who reported knowledge about vitamin A, 8% identified OFSP as a source, 1% had consumed OFSP in the past 7 days, and 0% reported that they ever prepared OFSP with an animal- or vegetable-based fat. Vitamin A-related health issues reported by mothers include night-blindness (32%), measles (32%) and malaria (72%). Given that existing knowledge, behaviors and production levels of vitamin A rich foods (including OFSP) are limited within the SNNPR study population and vary by geographic location, an integrated, food-based approach to address VAD may be relevant in this context to sustainably support improved health and livelihoods.
Key words: Nutrition, orange fleshed sweet potato, behavior change, Ethiopia
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