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The Relationship between Livestock Ownership and Child Stunting in Three Countries in Eastern Africa Using National Survey Data
Authors: Mosites EM, Rabinowitz PM, Thumbi SM, Montgomery JM, Palmer GH, May S, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Neuhouser ML, and Walson JL
Source: PLOS ONE , 10(9):e0136686; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136686. eCollection 2015.
Topic(s): Child health
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: SEP 2015
Abstract: Livestock ownership has the potential to improve child nutrition through various mechanisms, although direct evaluations of household livestock and child stunting status are uncommon. We conducted an analysis of Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) datasets from Ethiopia (2011), Kenya (2008-2009), and Uganda (2010) among rural children under 5 years of age to compare stunting status across levels of livestock ownership. We classified livestock ownership by summing reported household numbers of goats, sheep, cattle and chickens, as well as calculating a weighted score to combine multiple species. The primary association was assessed separately by country using a log-binomial model adjusted for wealth and region, which was then stratified by child diarrheal illness, animal-source foods intake, sub-region, and wealth index. This analysis included n = 8079 children from Ethiopia, n = 3903 children from Kenya, and n = 1645 from Uganda. A ten-fold increase in household livestock ownership had significant association with lower stunting prevalence in Ethiopia (Prevalence Ratio [PR] 0.95, 95% CI 0.92-0.98) and Uganda (PR 0.87, 95% CI 0.79-0.97), but not Kenya (PR 1.01, 95% CI 0.96-1.07). The weighted livestock score was only marginally associated with stunting status. The findings varied slightly by region, but not by wealth, diarrheal disease, or animal-source food intake. This analysis suggested a slightly beneficial effect of household livestock ownership on child stunting prevalence. The small effect size observed may be related to limitations of the DHS dataset or the potentially complicated relationship between malnutrition and livestock ownership, including livestock health and productivity.