Determinants of diarrhoeal diseases and height-for-age z-scores in children under-five years of age in rural central Tanzania


Gastrointestinal infections
linear growth


Introduction: Childhood diarrhoeal diseases and stunting are major health problems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Poor water supply, sanitation services and hygiene, frequently encountered in resource-poor settings, contribute to childhood diarrhoea and stunting.

Methods: Data on demographic characteristics, hygiene practices, sanitation and human-animal interactions (predictors) and child height-for-age z-scores (HAZ) (outcome) were collected once, while diarrhoea incidences were collected fortnightly for 24 months (outcome).

Results: Drinking water from public taps (OR = 0.51, 95% CI. 0.44 - 0.61; p < 0.001) and open wells (OR = 0.46, 95% CI. 0.39 - 0.54; p < 0.001) and older age of children (OR = 0.43, 95% CI. 0.27 - 0.67; p < 0.001) were protective against diarrhoea. Inappropriate disposal of children’s faeces (OR = 1.15, 95% CI. 1.02 - 1.31; p = 0.025), sharing water sources with animals in the dry season (OR = 1.48, 95% CI. 1.29 - 1.70; p < 0.001), over- night sharing of houses with cats (OR = 1.35, 95% CI. 1.16 - 1.57; p < 0.001) and keeping chickens inside the house overnight regardless of room (OR = 1.39, 95% CI. 1.20 - 1.60; p < 0.001) increased the risk of diarrhoea. The Sukuma language group (p = 0.005), washing hands in running water (p = 0.007), access of chickens to unwashed kitchen utensils (p = 0.030) and over- night sharing of the house with sheep (p = 0.020) were associated with higher HAZ in children.

Conclusions: Until a more precise understanding of the key risk factors is available, these findings suggest efforts towards control of diarrhoea and improved linear growth in these areas should be directed to increased access to clean and safe water, hand- washing, sanitation, and improved animal husbandry practices.



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