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Nutritional monitoring of preschool-age children by community volunteers during armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Background. The coverage of preschool preventive medical visits in developing countries is still low. Consequently, very few children benefit from continuous monitoring during the first 5 years of life.

Objective. To assess community volunteers' effectiveness in monitoring the growth of preschool-age children in a context of endemic malnutrition and armed conflict.

Methods. Community volunteers were selected by village committees and trained to monitor children's growth in their respective villages. Community volunteers monitored 5,479 children under 5 years of age in the Lwiro Health Sector of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from January 2004 to December 2005 under the supervision of the district health office. Children's weight was interpreted according to weight-for-age curves drawn on the growth sheet proposed by the World Health Organization and adopted by the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Results. During the 2-year program, the volunteers weighed children under 5 years of age monthly. The median percentage of children weighed per village varied between 80% and 90% for children of 12-59 months, and 80% and 100% for children of less than 12 months even during the conflict period. The median percentage of children between 12 and 59 months of age per village ranked as highly susceptible to malnutrition by the volunteers decreased from 4.2% (range, 0% to 35.3%) in 2004 to 2.8% (range, 0.0% to 18.9%) in 2005.

Conclusions. The decentralization of weighing of children to the community level could be an alternative for improving growth monitoring of preschool-age children in situations of armed conflict or political instability. This option also offers an opportunity to involve the community in malnutrition care and can be an entry point for other public health activities.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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