Carers’ knowledge of treatment of severe acute malnutrition at Dadaab refugee complex, Kenya: A prospective cohort study

A M Mbogo, E van Niekerk, I Ogada, C Schubl


Background. Severe acute malnutrition causes half of the deaths in children under the age of 5 years in refugee camps.

Objective. To describe carers’ knowledge of the treatment of severe acute malnutrition at Dadaab Refugee Complex in Garissa County, Kenya.

Methods. A prospective cohort study of 128 children (6 - 59 months) and their carers was conducted at the Ifo I and Hagadera refugee camps, Kenya. Child–carer pairs from the stabilisation centre (SC) (n=22) and outpatient therapeutic feeding programme (OTFP) (n=42) at each camp were followed up until discharged. Data were collected using a structured questionnaire. Statistical analyses included χ2 and independent-sample t-tests.

Results. The mean (standard deviation) length of stay in the SC was 10.4 (6) days at Ifo and 9.5 (4) days at Hagadera (p=0.465), while 5.9 (1.5) days and 5.6 (2.1) days in the OTFPs at Ifo and Hagadera, respectively (p=0.125). There were no defaulters. More than a third of the carers in each OTFP did not know the duration of treatment (p=0.000) and less than half adhered strictly to the prescribed therapeutic feeding recommendations. Only 36% of carers in the SC at Ifo (n=8) and 27% (n=6) at Hagadera knew why malnourished children have to be kept warm during cold weather (p=0.003), compared with 48% (n=20) and 36% (n=15) of carers in the OTFPs (p=0.000).

Conclusion. Carers have a critical role in managing acute malnutrition in a community-based model. This study provides invaluable insights regarding carers’ knowledge on treatment of acute malnutrition and identifies areas of improvement.

Authors' affiliations

A M Mbogo, Nutrition Department, Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya

E van Niekerk, Department of Global Health, Division of Human Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

I Ogada, Department of Applied Human Nutrition, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Canada

C Schubl, Human Nutrition Department, Faculty of Health, Tygerberg Hospital and Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

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South African Journal of Child Health 2020;14(3):110-114. DOI:10.7196/SAJCH.2020.v14i3.1567

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-10-12
Date published: 2020-10-12

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