Background: Childhood malnutrition is a global problem contributing to more than a third of under-five mortality. Orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) fare worse than children living with their parents. However, the nutritional and healthcare needs of OVC are under-recognized in Ethiopia.
Methods: A community-based cross sectional study was conducted among OVC aged 6 to 59 months. Multi-stage sampling technique was applied to select the households and eligible children included in the study (n=584). An interviewer-administered questionnaire and anthropometric measurements were carried out. The proportions of stunting, wasting and underweight were determined based on the WHO Z-score cut-off. Multivariable binary logistic regression analysis was performed to identify factors associated with stunting.
Results: The prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight were 35.1% (95% CI; 31.3% - 39.1%), 4.7% (95% CI; 3.2% - 6.7%) and 12.0% (95% CI; 9.6% - 14.9%), respectively. Stunting was significantly associated with initiation of complementary feeding after 12 months of age (AOR = 3.61; 95% CI 1.16 - 14.11), household food insecurity (AOR = 1.90; 95% CI 1.10 - 3.17), unplanned pregnancy (AOR = 1.90; 95% CI 1.03 - 3.42), age ≥ 2 years (AOR = 1.80; 95% CI 1.25 - 2.67), caretaker’s age ≤25 years (AOR = 1.50; 95% CI 1.03 - 2.16) and employment of the caretaker (AOR = 1.50; 95% CI 1.03 - 2.26).
Conclusion: The prevalence of all forms of malnutrition among OVC was significantly higher than the national estimate. Most importantly, this study uncovers that the positive health statistics which point towards decreases in under nutrition as evidenced by consecutive Ethiopian Demographic and Health Surveys (EDHS) data do not accurately reflect the condition of the many underprivileged children living in the society. These findings of the study underscore the need for interventions to enhance household food security and caretaker’s awareness on child feeding particularly addressing the OVC.