Graduation of a RELOAD MSc student at Jimma University

Nejat Kiyak The nutritional status of children under two years of age in Jimma zone, southwest Ethiopia, was the focus of Ms Nejat Kiyak’s MSc thesis. It provides a baseline for upgrading traditional starchy staple foods and improving their nutritional value.


In spite of considerable progress made in recent decades, under- and malnutrition remain widespread problems in Ethiopia, with children below two years of age being among the most vulnerable groups. Ms Kiyak’s study provides insights into the different forms and degrees of malnutrition that are present today among children of this age group in both rural and urban areas of three selected districts in Jimma zone, southwest Ethiopia. By relating anthropometric measurements and information from interviews that she conducted with the children’s mothers, it was possible to identify risk factors for under- and malnutrition in the first two years of a child’s live. These risk factors include gender, age, place of residence and complementary feeding practices. Children in urban areas were more likely to be affected than children in rural areas, and the risk for young boys to develop symptoms of malnutrition was markedly higher compared to that of girls (boys were two times more likely to be stunted compared to girls).


The study revealed that the majority of mothers exclusively breastfed their infants up to the age of six months, and malnutrition mainly starts to be observed after the children passed the six months mark. The main reason for under-and malnutrition was found in poor complementary feeding practices. Most children of this age group are provided predominantly with starchy foods to complement breastfeeding, so that the dietary diversity is extremely low. Hence, improving complementary feeding practices should be of highest priority because of its crucial role in preventing mortality and enhancing a child’s development at this critical age.


Ms Kiyak’s work is related to studies of RELOAD PhD student Sirawdink Fikreyesus, which aim at optimizing the nutritional value of traditional starchy staple foods by upgrading them with dried vegetables, fruits and animal products, and at developing food combinations and innovative products to meet nutritional needs of children below two years of age in consultation with their mothers and other relevant stakeholders.


The study was supervised jointly by Prof. Dr. Oliver Hensel, University of Kassel, Germany; Prof. Dr. Tefera Belachew, Jimma University, Ethiopia; and Sirawdink Fikreyesus (M.Sc.), also from Jimma University.


Read the abstract here