Underweight is one of the largest contributors to child morbidity and mortality and is considered to be the largest contributor to the global burden of diseases in low-and middle-income countries. In Mauritania, where one-fifth of children are underweight, there is a dearth of evidence on socio-economic, sex and geographic disparities in childhood underweight. As a result, this study aimed at investigating the socio-economic, sex and geographic disparities in childhood underweight in Mauritania.
Using the World Health Organization's (WHO) Health Equity Assessment Toolkit (HEAT) software, data from the Mauritania Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICSs) conducted between 2007 and 2015 were analysed. Childhood underweight was disaggregated by five equity stratifiers: education, wealth, residence, region and sex. In addition, absolute and relative inequality measures, namely difference (D), population attributable risk (PAR), ratio (R) and population attributable fraction (PAF) were calculated to understand inequalities from wider perspectives. Corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were computed to measure statistical significance.
Substantial absolute and relative socio-economic, sex and geographic disparities in underweight were observed from 2007 to 2015. Children from the poorest households (PAR=−12.66 [95% CI −14.15 to −11.16]), those whose mothers were uneducated (PAF=−9.11 [95% CI −13.41 to −4.81]), those whose mothers were rural residents (R=1.52 [95% CI 1.37 to 1.68]), residents of HodhCharghy (PAF=−66.51 [95% CI −79.25 to −53.76]) and males (D=4.30 [95% CI 2.09 to 6.52]) experienced a higher burden of underweight. Education-related disparities decreased from 2007 to 2015. The urban–rural gap in underweight similarly decreased over time with the different measures showing slightly different reductions. Wealth-driven disparities decreased marginally from 2011 to 2015. The sex-based and regional disparities increased, at least on average, over the 8-y intersurvey period.
The burden of underweight was significantly higher among children from disadvantaged subpopulations, those with uneducated and poorest/poor mothers, those living in rural areas and those living in HodhCharghy. Special nutrition intervention and efforts focused on these deprived subpopulations are required to reduce childhood morbidity and mortality associated with underweight and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Bibliographical noteThe authors thank the WHO for producing and releasing the HEAT software for free.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
- global health
- public health