African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development

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Nutritional status of HIV/AIDS orphaned children in households headed by the elderly in Rakai District, South Western Uganda

Joyce K Kikafunda, Hanifa K Namusoke


Although a lot of research has been conducted on the role of good nutrition in mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS, little is known about the health and nutritional status of HIV/AIDS orphaned children who mostly live with their elderly grand parents. The major objective of this study was therefore to assess the nutritional status of HIV/AIDS orphaned children (<10 years) living with their elderly relatives in Rakai District, Uganda; compared to non-orphaned children living with both parents in ordinary homes. The study was a cross-sectional comparative survey that employed both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. A questionnaire was administered to 100 caretakers of the orphaned children and 50 caretakers of non-orphaned children, which explored the effect of socio-demographic factors on the nutritional status of the children. The children's nutritional status was assessed anthropometrically using the weight for age nutritional indicator. Key information was sought from those with authority in the area. The results revealed high levels of malnutrition among orphaned children as almost half of them (47 %) were found to be underweight. This level of underweight was significantly (p <0.05) higher than the figure of 28 % found in the children with both parents. In addition, whereas the usual situation is for the under-nutrition to decline as the child grows older, for the AIDS orphans, it was the opposite with levels of underweight rising from 7 % through 16 % to 24 % in the 0 - 24, 25 – 60, and above 60-month age groups, respectively. Underweight prevalence among the orphans was twice that found in the general population for under-five children, ie, 47 % in the AIDS orphans compared to 23 % of the children in the general population. More than half of the elderly care-takers (59 %) had no formal education, making adoption of improved child rearing practices a challenge. The findings show that malnutrition in Rakai District is a big problem resulting from a number of factors among them poverty, illiteracy, big family sizes, and the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Homes visited did not have enough of both material and psychological support to sufficiently care for their families. Overall, the study findings reveal that HIV/AIDS orphaned children living with their elderly relatives have poor nutritional status and recommends that the extent of support to meet the needs of these children and their elderly caretakers be increased.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS, orphans, nutritional status, elderly, Uganda

African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development Vol. 6(1) 2006

AJOL African Journals Online