Malnutrition is one of the main health problems facing many women and children in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has the second highest rate of malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Ethiopia faces the four major forms of malnutrition: acute and chronic malnutrition, iron deficiency anaemia (IDA), vitamin A deficiency (VAD), and iodine deficiency disorder (IDD). The 2005 Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) highlights the different levels of deficiencies in different age groups (see Table 1.1).
Vitamin A deficiency is the most common cause of preventable blindness. The 2005 national IDD survey showed a goitre (enlargement of the thyroid gland in the front of the neck) of over 35%; both of these are considered emergency proportions by WHO standards. There is a marked decrease in the number of Ethiopian households that consume iodised salt compared with a decade ago, leading to increased iodine deficiency disorder.
The prevalence of low birth weight (LBW) in Ethiopia (14%) is one of the highest in the world. One major contributing factor for LBW is the poor nutritional status of women both before and during pregnancy, made even worse by inadequate weight gain during pregnancy.