The relationship between intrahousehold food distribution and pre-school children's nutritional status; a case study between low and high income households in Nairobi
Child malnutrition is a global concern affecting millions of children, especially those of pre-school age. 'I11e main factor contributing to this situation is preferential food distribution rather than household food security. The major purpose of this study was to investigate how the distribution of food within households affects the nutritional status of the pre-school child. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative approaches where semistructured interview and field observation methods of data collection were used. The target population was the household decision-makers and pre-school children aged between 2 and 5 years. The study was carried out in Kaiyaba Village of Mukuru Slum and Riverbank Estate in South 8, Nairobi. A study sample of 84 subjects (34 household decision makers and 50 pre-school children) were purposefully selected and studied. Data was organised and analysed both manually and by computer using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) programme, yielding descriptive statistics. Anthropometric data was analyscd using the anthropackage, while qualitative data was analyscd qualitatively. Research findings revealed that all households in Riverbank were food secure while 75% of those in Kaiyaba were food insecure. The findings con finned that preferential food distribution existed within households irrespective of their food security status. In both groups mothers ate last, ate less and ate poorer quality food during food scarcity. The young children and fathers were served first and were served better quality food even at times of scarcity. The fathers in both groups were served more feed than any ether member cf L~!!hcusehcld, even during food scarcity. The following factors were identified as influencing intrahousehold food distribution: 1) age, 2) nutritional need, 3) food availability, 4) gender,S) birth order, 6) financial contribution, 7) serving method, 8) presence of visitors and 9) cultural values. The dietary data revealed that the majority (90% in Kaiyaba and 69.3% in Riverbank) of the pre-school children in both income groups consumed unbalanced diets. Anthropometry data indicated that 32% of pre-school children in Kaiyaba were stunted and 14.3% were wasted. On the other hand, only 9% of those in Riverbank were stunted while 8.7% were wasted. However, under-weight cases werepredominant in Kaiyaba which registered the highest number (40.7%) while Riverbank registered only 4.5%. Generally more boys than girls were malnourished in both groups. The t-test revealed that there was statistically significant difference in the mean height-for-weight and height-for-age of pre-school children in the two groups, with that of pre-school children in Riverbank being significantly higher than the one for Kaiyaba at (0.05) level. There was also a positive association between the father's level of education and the pre-school children's nutritional status in both income groups. However, mother's level of education was found to be negatively associated to the pre-school children's nutritional status in the high income group.