Ethiopia faces cyclic food insecurity that alternates between pre- and post- harvest seasons. Whether seasonal variation in access to food is associated with child growth has not been assessed empirically. Understanding seasonality of child growth velocity and growth deficit helps to improve efforts to track population interventions against malnutrition. The aim of this study was assess child growth velocity, growth deficit, and their determinants in rural southwest Ethiopia.
Data were obtained from four rounds of a longitudinal household survey conducted in ten districts in Oromiya Region and Southern Nations, Nationality and Peoples Region of Ethiopia, in which 1200 households were selected using multi-stage cluster sampling. Households with a child under 5 years were included in the present analyses (round 1 n = 579, round 2 n = 674, round 3 n = 674 and round 4 n = 680). The hierarchical nature of the data was taken into account during the statistical analyses by fitting a linear mixed effects model. A restricted maximum likelihood estimation method was employed in the analyses.
Compared to the post-harvest season, a higher length and weight velocity were observed in pre-harvest season with an average difference of 6.4 cm/year and 0.6 kg/year compared to the post-harvest season. The mean height of children in post-harvest seasons was 5.7 cm below the WHO median reference height. The mean height of children increased an additional 3.3 cm [95% CI (2.94, 3.73)] per year in pre-harvest season compared to the post-harvest season. Similarly, the mean weight of children increased 1.0 kg [95% CI (0.91, 1.11)] per year more in the pre-harvest season compared to the post-harvest season. Children who had a low dietary diversity and were born during the lean season in both seasons had a higher linear growth deficit. Being member of a highly food insecure household was negatively associated with higher weight gain. Having experienced no illness during the previous 2 weeks was positively associated with linear growth and weight gain.
Child growth velocities and child growth deficits were higher in the pre-harvest season and post- harvest season respectively. Low dietary diversity and being part of a highly food insecure household were significantly risk factors for decreased linear growth and weight gain respectively.