Prevalence of child stunting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is among the highest in the world. There is a need to systematically investigate how stunting operates at different levels of determination and identify major factors contributing to the development of stunting. The aim of this study was to look for key determinants of stunting in the DRC.
This study used data from the DRC Demographic Health Survey 2013–14 which included anthropometric measurement for 9030 under 5 year children. Height-for-Age Z score was calculated and classified according to the WHO guideline. The association between stunting and bio-demographic characteristics was assessed using logistic regression.
Prevalence of stunting was much higher in boys than girls. There was a significant rural urban gap in the prevalence of stunting with rural areas having a larger proportion of children living with stunting than urban.
Male children, older than 6 months, preceding birth interval less than 24 months, being from lower wealth quintiles had the highest odds of stunting. Several provinces had in particular high odds of stunting. Early initiation of breastfeeding, mother’s age more than 20 years at the time of delivery had lower odds of stunting. The taller the mother the less likely the child was to be stunted. Similarly, mother’s BMI, access to safe water, access to hygienic toilet, mother’s education were found negatively correlated with child stunting in the bivariate logistic regression, but they lost statistical significance in multivariate analysis together with numbers of children in the family and place of residence.
Child stunting is widespread in the DRC and increasing prevalence is worrisome. This study has identified modifiable factors determining high prevalence of stunting in the DRC. Policy implementation should in particular target provinces with high prevalence of stunting and address modifiable determinants such as reducing socioeconomic disparity. Nutrition promotion intervention, including early initiation of breastfeeding should be an immediate priority.