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This study was carried out to assess the socio-cultural factors influencing nutritional status of children below 5 years in selected rural communities in Enugu State. The objectives of the study were to determine the influence of family structure, socio-economic status of the family, maternal education on the nutritional status of children and to identify the religious and cultural practices that influence the nutritional status of children. A cross-sectional descriptive survey design was used for the study in Enugu East L.G.A., Enugu State. A simple random sampling technique was used to select 5 communities from the L.G.A. for the study and snow-ball non-probability sampling techniques was used to select the subjects for the study. The target population was unknown; a sample size of 384 was determined using Golden formula for infinite population. Self developed questionnaire with 4 point modified Likert scale was used. Anthropometric measurements of the children under 5 were measured using weighing scale and height measurement. Cronbatch alpha statistic was used to establish the internal consistency which gave a reliability coefficient of 0.80. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze data. Results were presented in tables as percentages, means and standard deviations. One sample t-test was used to test hypotheses at P < 0.05 level of significance. Findings revealed that family structure with a grand mean score of 3.29, socio-economic status of the family with a grand mean score of 2.91 and some religious and cultural practices with a grand mean score of 2.77 which was above the criterion mean of 2.5 all had a negative influence on the nutritional status of children. Maternal education was revealed to influence the nutritional status as 33.3% of children malnourished were from mothers with no formal education, 48.7 from mothers with primary education, 15.9% had secondary and tertiary education, respectively. There were significant differences (P < 0.05) in relationship between family structure influence, socio-economic status influence, religious and cultural practice influence, maternal education influence and the nutritional status of children. In conclusion, all the variables, family structure, socio-economic status, certain religious and cultural practices were all perceived to have a negative influence on the nutritional status of children. Maternal education also has a strong influence on the nutritional status of children as educated mothers had less number of children malnourished. Recommendation is that health care personnel should educate mothers on factors that lead to poor nutritional status, women empowerment through education should be encouraged as it promises improved family finances, better food security and better childhood nutrition.
Background to the study
Child nutrition plays a key role in infant and child health or death. Young children, pregnant women and lactating mothers are nutritionally the most vulnerable group, especially in the developing countries of the world, and yet relatively little is done to achieve their special nutritional needs. (Oyira, Abua, Mgbekem&Okon, 2010).
The importance of nutrition in childhood for both immediate health and health in later life is a topic that has aroused a considerable interest and argument over the past 15 – 20 years. The depth of interest and the data that arouse the interest are new but the concept that the way a child is fed has a long-term effect or consequences are not new. In developed countries and many traditional societies today, early feeding has been considered a determinant of later character as much as later growth and health. Correct nutrition ensures healthier children, who grow into more productive adults while Poor nutrition on the other hand leads to malnutrition.
Malnutrition continues to be a significant public health and development concern around the world with about one-third of the world’s children malnourished and an estimated 150 to 200 million pre-school children (< 5-years) in developing countries being underweight and stunted, respectively (WHO, 2006).
Malnutrition is the condition that results from taking inadequate diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess, or in the wrong proportions (Sullivan & Sheffrin, 2010).