Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of undernutrition and associated factors among adolescents in two food insecure zones in Ethiopia.
Methods: Data were collected through a survey of 350 rural households from five districts using a multistage sampling design. Demographic, socioeconomic, and anthropometric measurements were collected from 1437 individuals. The nutritional status of a subset of this sample, adolescents aged 10 to 19 years, was analyzed using the World Health Organization (WHO) AnthroPlus software. Height-for-age Z-score (HAZ), and BMI-for-age Z-score (BAZ) were calculated to determine nutritional status.
Results: The prevalence of stunting (HAZ less than -2 standard deviations (SDs)) and thinness (BAZ < -2 SDs) were 18.4% and 15.0% respectively. Although these values are high by international standards, adolescents from the study population have relatively low rates of undernutrition compared to younger children from the same communities. Overall, undernutrition among adolescents was negatively associated with household access to irrigation and livestock holdings, but not with household size, farmland size or agroecology.
Conclusion: Expanding access to nutrition-sensitive small-scale irrigation, and enhancing asset-building interventions, may contribute to the reduction of adolescent undernutrition in regions susceptible to climate change.