Does mothers/caregivers‘fasting status affect the dietary diversity of children 6-23 months? A before-after study in Debrebirhan, Ethiopia

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Addis Abeba University


Background: Ethiopia has various religions, of which the Orthodox Tewahido Christian religion accounts for 44% of the population. According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido tradition close to 200 days are dedicated to religious fasting annually, at which time all followers who are above seven years old are expected to abstain from all types of food, including animal source foods, and water for up to some hours daily. It is possible that such practice by mothers or caregivers could affect children’s food consumption. However, it is not clear if mothers/caregivers’ fasting status influences the diversity of food that children are getting during these periods. Objective: The objective of this study was to estimate the effect of mothers/caregivers’ fasting status on dietary diversity of children 6-23 months in Debrebirhan, Ethiopia, 2019 Methods: A community-based longitudnal study was conducted in Debrebirhan, North Shewa Zone, at randomly selected seven kebeles with a sample size of 218, from January 29 to February 25, 2019 in the pre-fasting period and from March 18 to April 10, 2019, during fasting period on same participants. Data was entered on Epi data version and analyzed using STATA 15 software. Children’s dietary diversity was measured using the WHO standardized questionnaire for infant and young child feeding. McNemar paired test was used for comparison of baseline and end line measurements. Statistical significance was determined at p<0.05. Result: A total of 218 and 216 mothers/caregivers with children 6-23 months participated in the study before and during fasting season with a response rate of 100.0% and 99.0% respectively. The median age of children was 15 months. It was found out that the proportion of children who ate four or more food groups in the pre-fasting period was 23.4% and it significantly decreased to 5.5% in the fasting period (p<0.0001). Conclusion: The study pointed out that mothers/caregivers’ fasting status during the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido fasting periods could negatively affect the dietary diversity of children 6-23 months in the household apparently by decreasing their consumption of animal source food. Therefore, intervention strategies in promoting children's dietary diversity should be designed in a way that considers Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Christian mothers/caregivers’ fasting practices.



Infant ,young child ,Dietary diversity