Objective: This study aims to assess the prevalence of stunting among children aged 6-36 months and to describe the underlying factors and feeding practices of infants and young children in 2 districts of the Eastern Province in Sri Lanka.
Methodology: A cross-sectional quantitative survey was conducted in Batticaloa and Kalmunai health districts of the Eastern Province in Sri Lanka from July to December 2013. A sample of 1400 children was identified using a stratified cluster sampling method, and the data were obtained from mothers or care givers using an interviewer administered questionnaire. Anthropometric measurements were taken using standard procedure and equipment. Stunting was defined as the proportion of children whose height-for-age Z score was less than -2 according to WHO growth standards.
Results: The prevalence of stunting was 16.8% (95% CI; 14.1, 18.0) among the children aged 6-36 months, in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. The prevalence of wasting was 21.5% (95% CI; 18.8, 24.3), and underweight was 27.2% (95% CI; 19.8, 28.7) in this age group. Boys were more stunted (20.3% (95% CI; 16.1, 24.2)) than girls (14.0% (95%CI; 9.6 and 16.5)). Underlying factors include: lower educational level of parents (OR=4.91, p=0.048); lower family income (OR=1.48, p=0.011); low birth weight (OR=1.28, p=0.049); exclusive breastfeeding period less than 6 months(OR=2.29, p=0.041); poor complementary feeding practices (OR=1.51, p=0.048); irregular clinic visits (OR=1.52, p=0.041) and not getting advice from health personnel (OR=1.41, p=0.041).
Conclusion: Prevalence of stunting among children aged 6-36 months in the Eastern Province is higher than the rest of the country. Poor infant and young child feeding practices was identified as one of the modifiable factors. Breastfeeding and the complementary feeding practices need improvement through improved feeding behavior of mothers and/or care givers.